Complaints about excessive noise are investigated by officers who can take action if the noise is considered to be a statutory nuisance.
When is noise nuisance a statutory nuisance?
Noise nuisance is covered by Part III of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. This law empowers local authorities to deal with noise from fixed premises. Before action can be taken we have to be sure that the noise constitutes a statutory nuisance. This means that we have to prove that the noise is prejudicial to health and/or is causing an unreasonable and persistent disturbance to your lifestyle.
There are a number of different sources of noise pollution and therefore the service is categorised into the following:-
- domestic neighbour noise (eg loud music)
- industrial noise (eg noisy machinery)
- commercial noise (eg pubs and clubs)
- aircraft noise, and
- barking dogs
Domestic neighbour noise
Excessive noise from neighbours can be frustrating and can cause a lot of unnecessary stress and worry. In many cases, the person making the noise is unaware that they are causing a problem and therefore the problem can be sorted out quite quickly.
Where this approach fails we can serve a notice on the offending party requiring them to abate the nuisance. If such a notice is not complied with then legal action can follow.
Bothered by Noise?
Defra has produced a leaflet entitled:-
Bothered by Noise? There is no need to suffer - you can find this and more information on DEFRA's website
They have also published information on dog barking (May 2005). This information can also be found on the DEFRA website
What happens if the noise nuisance continues?
We will assess the log sheet(s) that we will ask you to complete and determine the extent of the disturbance. Where necessary, an Officer will normally make up to three visits to assess the extent of the disturbance and determine whether the noise represents a Statutory Nuisance. Where necessary, visits will be made outside normal office hours. Noise recording equipment is used in many situations to assess intermittent disturbances.
If the Officer is satisfied that a Statutory Nuisance exists, a Noise Abatement Notice under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 will be served on the person causing the problem. Where the notice requires work, a period of time will be given to allow it to be carried out. Failure to comply with the notice after that time is a criminal offence and the person could be prosecuted.
There are some occasions where the Council is unable to take action, particularly where the noise occurs intermittently and is not judged to be a Statutory Nuisance. If the Council decides that formal action cannot be taken, you will be informed and you will be given advice about taking action yourself if you wish to do so.
What other action can I take?
You may wish to consider taking your own action under section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
In some circumstances the council may be unable to get sufficient evidence to be able to take action on behalf of an individual who has made a complaint. Should this occur, you can take independent action by complaining direct to the Magistrates' Court under section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. This is quite simple and need not cost much; you may not need to employ a solicitor, but it is advisable to obtain some legal advice.
Before approaching the court, it is a good idea to write to the noise-maker saying that unless the noise is abated by a certain date (e.g. two weeks) you will complain to the Magistrates' Court. Keep a copy of all correspondence. If the noisemaker ignores either a verbal or written request by you to abate the noise, contact the Justices' Clerk's Office at your local Magistrates' Court, explaining that you wish to make a complaint under section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
The Clerk of the Court should be able to advise you further. You must give at least three days notice of your intention to complain to the Magistrates' Court, to the person considered responsible for the noise. The notice should provide details of the complaint and may be delivered by hand or by post. A Solicitor can do this for you (a solicitors' letter will show you are serious). You need to prove to the Magistrate, beyond reasonable doubt, that the noise you are complaining about amounts to a nuisance. The diary you keep will be important evidence. Although the law says that only one person needs to be affected for there to be a nuisance, in practice the evidence of other witnesses will strengthen your claim.
A date will be set for the hearing and the person about whom you are complaining, will be summoned to Court. You will be required to explain your problem and produce evidence of the disturbance. You will have to give your own evidence and cross-examine your supporting witnesses to draw out their evidence. The neighbour will be able to cross-examine you and your witnesses and may produce their own evidence. A Solicitor will help, but you can take action on your own. The law relating to business premises is slightly different: they can defend themselves by proving that they are using the 'best practicable means' to prevent the noise.
If you prove your case, the Court will make an order requiring the nuisance to be abated, and/or prohibit recurrence of the nuisance. It also has the power at the time the nuisance order is made, to impose a fine on the defendant (currently up to £5,000). If this order is ignored, further Court action will need to be taken; you must therefore continue to keep records of noise nuisance in case it is necessary to return to Court. If you fail to prove your case you may have to pay some of the defendant's expenses in coming to Court.
Are there alternatives to Legal Action?
Noise disputes are often resolved informally. Legal action should be a last resort. It is unpleasant and will inevitably further sour the relationship between you and your neighbour. It is very important that you do your best to resolve any problem in a friendly way.
Aircraft noise is excluded from Part III of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which means that we have no direct responsibility in relation to noise from aircraft departing or landing. These complaints are dealt with solely by the Civil Aviation Authority.
I am experiencing problems with noise in my neighbourhood, what should I do?
Information on how to deal with problems with noisy neighbours or barking dogs can be found on the Environmental Health Information pages, click here for further information, alternatively contact the Regulatory Service Group 01785 619000, or by e-mail. TOP
What can I do about a noisy neighbour?
Many people who have had noise problems, particularly those involving neighbours, have resolved them informally. People have explained to their neighbours the difficulties they are causing, this has meant that they have not needed to report their difficulties to us. In our experience, people are often unaware that they are causing a problem, and will be glad to do what they can to reduce noise. If the personal approach fails, we may be able to help.
If the person causing the problem is a housing association tenant or in rented accommodation then please discuss your problem with your local Housing Officer who will liaise with us if necessary. TOP
Can anything be done about noise from scrapmen collecting?
If you are bothered by noise from scrapmen collecting in your area the council can, in certain circumstances, take action under the provisions of section 62 of The Control of Pollution Act 1974. This act enables local authorities to take action against individuals using a loudspeaker on the highway to advertise for business. Contact Environmental & Health Services using the details above. TOP
How can I make a complaint about noise?
You can make a complaint in person, by telephone (01785 619402), e-mail or letter. Your complaint should include:-
Your name and address and a daytime 'phone number;
The address where the noise is coming from;
The type of noise (for example barking dogs, loud music);
When and for how long the noise occurs (it will help if you have kept a written record of the times and dates when the problem has occurred);
The way the noise affects you (for example, it keeps you awake);
Anything you have done to try to deal with the problem (for example, speaking to the person making the noise).
We will keep your name and address in strictest confidence. However, the person you have made a complaint about may guess who has complained, or may approach you to ask if you have made the complaint. TOP
What will we do if we receive a noise complaint?
Initially we will write to you, acknowledging the complaint and letting you know how we intend to act, we will also send you some diary/log sheets and ask you to complete them for about 2 weeks, this will give us a clearer idea of the problems you are experiencing. At the same time we will write to the subject telling them that we have received a complaint, (without saying who from) and that if we receive any more we will investigate further.
If you feel that the noise problem has not improved after returning the diary sheets, we can investigate further by visiting your premises and/or collecting recorded evidence.
We will assess all the collected evidence and determine the extent of the disturbance. If we decide to take legal action in respect of your complaint, you may have to provide a statement and appear in Court as a witness. If we are satisfied that a Statutory Nuisance exists we will serve a Noise Abatement Notice (Section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990) on the person causing the problem. Sometimes it will be necessary for the person who causes the nuisance to carry out work. The Notice will give them some time to comply. Failure to comply with the Notice is a criminal offence. TOP
What about noise problems from commercial or industrial premises?
These are dealt with in exactly the same manner as domestic noise complaints, except we will usually visit the premises initially to discuss the problem rather than writing to them, it is a defence for industrial and commercial premises to prove they are using best practicable means to minimise noise. TOP
What other action can I take about a noise problem?
In some circumstances, we may be unable to obtain sufficient evidence to be able to act on your behalf. Should this occur, you can take independent action by complaining directly to the Magistrates' Court under Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act, 1990. The procedure is simple and need not cost much; you may not need to employ a solicitor, but it is advisable to obtain some legal advice. TOP
What about noise from bird scarers?
Although dealt with as a noise nuisance, it is slightly different as there is a draft code of practice. This in effect sets best practical means (BPM) for such activities. This means that we are only likely to take action if this code is not followed. TOP
How can I ensure my burglar alarm doesn't cause a nuisance?
Your burglar alarm should be set so that it sounds for no more than 20 minutes when triggered.
You should also make sure that false alarms are kept to a minimum by ensuring that the sensors are not easily triggered, by small animals for example. People will start to ignore your alarm and the possibility of your home being burgled if it goes off frequently. TOP