This page outlines the most common causes of noise complaints that Environmental Health has powers to take action against if it meets the threshold of a statutory nuisance.
What is noise nuisance?
A noise nuisance is more than mere annoyance. Noise may be a nuisance because it is of unreasonable duration, frequency, or loudness.
What is considered unreasonable?
This is a difficult question because what one person may consider to be unreasonable, another may think it is normal or acceptable. In deciding whether you have a justified complaint, you should ask yourself "What would be the likely reaction of the average, reasonable person to this noise?". You may like to gauge what other neighbours think of the noise - talk to them and see if they are prepared to support you
The most common causes of noise complaints include:
- Loud music or amplified speech
- Noisy parties
- Barking dogs
- Intruder alarms
- Car alarms
- Noise from places of entertainment
- Industrial noise e.g. from ventilation equipment
- Building and demolition site noise
- DIY activities
- Poor sound insulation between properties
The Council takes noise issues seriously and has a range of powers to intervene. These include:
- Complaints - investigating noise complaints and taking action to abate the noise where it meets the threshold of being a nuisance
- Planning controls - imposing noise controls when planning applications are considered and working to prevent noise levels from ‘creeping’ up due to successive developments over a period of years
- Licensing controls - imposing noise controls on places of entertainment when licence applications are considered
- Construction noise controls - promoting good practice on demolition and building sites, and restricting hours where noise can be heard beyond the site boundary
- What can I do about the problem?
Often the person responsible for the noise is not aware that they are causing a disturbance to other people.
If the first time the person hears about the problem is via the Council then it can result in a breakdown in neighbour relations and make the problem worse.
It is usually better for the person who is suffering the disturbance to explain the problems to the person responsible for the noise. Most people are reasonable and want to be good neighbours, and when the situation is explained to them this can often lead to an agreeable solution. If other neighbours are prepared to support you, ask if one of them will accompany you when you speak to the person responsible for the noise.
How to discuss the problem with your neighbours
It is sometimes best to wait until the noise has stopped and you have time to collect your thoughts before speaking to the person responsible for the noise. If you speak to them whilst angry, it may result in both parties saying things that are later regretted and not help resolve the situation.
• Keep the conversation to the current problem - avoid raising problems of the past.
• A polite, friendly approach is more likely to achieve a positive result.
• If the noise is about DIY tasks, try to agree reasonable times for noisy activities.
• Suggest to your neighbour that if it occurs again, they might like to visit your house so that they can hear the noise for themselves.
• Never retaliate by causing excessive noise yourself. Your neighbour would be able to take action against you if you were causing a nuisance.
Remember - if the Council later considers taking formal action, or the matter ends up in court, then your reasonable behaviour is likely to count in your favour.
- What can I do if the problem continues?
If your approach fails to solve the problem, or you beleive there is a reason why you should not speak to the person responsible for the noise, then you may make a complaint to the Council by calling 01543 462621.
If it is possible that the noise may meet the threshold for being a nuisance, the Council will send a letter to the person responsible. This is often enough to resolve the matter. However, in case it is not, you will be sent a noise log to complete in order to evidence that this is a recurring problem.
If the noise persists and the noise log is returned, the Council will assess whether it amounts to a nuisance. If the Council determines that it is, further action will be taken which may include serving an abatement notice on the person. It is a criminal offence to not comply with the abatement notice.
A legal Notice may be served on the person or persons causing a statutory noise nuisance. If the Notice is appealed against or not complied with, you and other complainants may need to attend a Magistrates' court. Only at this stage can the person who is causing the noise become aware of who has complained.
If you decide not to involve the Council, the Environmental Protection Act 1990 allows for an individual to take their own action through the Courts and an Officer from the Council can give you information on how you may lodge a complaint that way.
At no stage will the Council disclose who has made the complaint, unless the matter goes to court or there is some other legal reason why this becomes necessay.
- Construction Site Noise
Building and demolition work are an essential part of modern life. However, the noise they create can be very intrusive to people living nearby.
It is normally possible to overcome serious disturbance to residents through good site management and common sense. Occasionally, however, it is necessary for the Council to restrict working hours where noise can be heard beyond the boundary of the site. This can be done by applying a condition to the planning consent, or by using powers under the Control of Pollution Act 1974.
If you are a resident concerned about construction noise, or an operator seeking advice to minimise noise problems, the following advice should be helpful.
Standard construction working hours
The council expects that potentially noisy construction and demolition work will only be carried out during the following hours:
- 07:30 - 18.00 Monday to Friday
- 07.30 - 13.00 on Saturdays
- No such work on Sundays or Bank Holidays
Some types of essential or emergency works can only be carried out at exceptionally quiet times such as during the night.
Controlling construction noise
In addition to controlling working hours, there are some common steps for avoiding unnecessary construction noise:
- Carry out site visits and identify noise sensitive areas before finalising working methods
- Formally oblige subcontractors to take responsibility for controlling their noise
- Choose and make provision in costings for working methods (such as piling) and equipment (such as silenced generators and pneumatic machinery) that reflect the noise sensitivity of the site
- Phase demolition / construction work stages to minimise noise impacts
- Make a nominated person responsible for monitoring noise and liaising with residents
- Inform residents in advance about particularly noisy works or any unavoidable works during antisocial hours
The council does not set standardised noise limits because there is so much variation in background levels from site to site. In noise sensitive locations (residential areas and near schools, hospitals, etc.) a high standard of design, specification and management of noise impacts will be expected. Specific noise limits may be set on a case-by-case basis.
There is a legal mechanism known as prior consent that enables developers and contractors to agree noise controls in advance of works starting. The prior consent procedure has advantages for difficult projects and normal works alike:
- Showing that you have adopted a considered, co-operative and responsible approach.
- Enabling you to manage the construction noise concerns of local residents effectively.
- Building in costs for noise assessment and control.
- Preventing delays or further costs where the Council finds it necessary to intervene formally for construction noise control during the works.
Prior consent may be granted under the Control of Pollution Act 1974 subject to conditions. It is a criminal offence to not comply with the conditions imposed in a prior consent. TO apply for prior consent, please email email@example.com.
- Public Nuisance and Licensing
The Licensing Act 2003 introduced fundamental changes to the licensing of many premises serving alcohol and refreshments or providing entertainment. One of the four key licensing objectives is the prevention of public nuisance which includes issues such as noise, odours, litter and light pollution.
Environmental Health is the designated ‘Responsible Authority’ for public nuisance issues under the Licensing Act. This means that it must be served with copies of all relevant applications for new premises licences or variation of existing ones. All applications are checked for likely impacts of public nuisance and appropriate controls are sought. Our published protocol explains how we do this through consultation responses submitted to the Council’s Licensing Unit.
We expect applicants to carefully assess the risk of causing a public nuisance and propose adequate solutions to prevent them.
Applicants are also invited to contact us at any early stage for any further advice we can offer to help ensure high quality applications before formal submission.
- Barking Dogs
Noise from Barking Dogs
Barking dogs are the most common complaint the Council receives about noise from animals. It is normal for dogs to bark. However, when that barking is loud and continuous or in frequent bursts, particularly at night, it can disturb neighbours and amount to a nuisance.
My dog barks a lot, what can I do?
A tired dog will generally bark less often so ensure it has sufficient exercise.
Do not allow the dog to bark for long periods of time; address any issues that might be causing it to bark.
Do not leave the dog at home alone for long periods of time.
Do not leave the dog outside late at night or early in the morning if it is prone to barking.
Consider seeking professional advice from a vet or pet behaviour specialist.