The Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA) is the main legislation used to control noise, this law deals with noise as a statutory nuisance. The EPA states that the following constitutes a statutory nuisance; "noise emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance".
The Act does not recommend levels for noisy activities for daytime or night-time noise, but it does state that it is an offence to create a noise nuisance at any time. In order to determine whether a statutory noise nuisance exists or not Enforcement Officers are required to make a judgement considering the volume of the noise, its duration, and the effects of the noise on the reasonable enjoyment of neighbouring properties.
The Environmental Protection Act was amended by the Noise and Statutory Nuisances Act 1993, which included noise emitted from or caused by a vehicle, machinery or equipment in a street. However, this does not apply to general traffic noise, although noise emitted from car alarms is covered.
What we can't deal with:
- Children’s Noise
- Shouting and Screaming
- Everyday domestic Noise
- Car stereos on moving vehicles
- Sound insulation
If a noise problem is experienced diary sheets are sent to the complainant to record the dates and times that the nuisance occurs, and the effect the noise is having on them. Once the diary sheets have been completed, Enforcement Officers examine the evidence in order to determine if the noise is likely to be a statutory nuisance. Initially a letter is sent to the alleged offender advising them of the complaint and enclosing an advice leaflet on noise. If the noise continues an Officer is normally required to witness the problem.
If after reasonable warning the noise continues and Officers are able to witness it and are satisfied it is a nuisance, a legal Notice can be served by the Council requiring the noise nuisance to be stopped.
If a breach of a noise abatement notice is witnessed then the Council can take one of two approaches. The persons responsible for the breach can be prosecuted in a magistrates court or the noise making equipment can be seized or rendered inoperable. Prosecution may also be considered even after the action of seizing equipment is taken.
If you have your equipment seized the Council will store it for 28 days. Following this time, you will be asked if you would like to collect the equipment. This can be done following the payment of a fee covering the Council’s costs for taking the enforcement action. If the equipment is not claimed after 12 months then it will be destroyed.
The Council can also serve a Notice in anticipation of a nuisance happening where it has reasonable grounds to believe that one might occur due to persistent problems in the past or planned one-off events.
It is recognised that a certain amount of noise is likely to occur in most types of construction operation's.
However, the Council also acknowledges the need to ensure that residents and businesses are protected from disturbance during the construction of both major and smaller developments. The Control of Pollution Act 1974 is main legislation used to control construction site noise. However, the Pollution Team has also developed a Code of Practice for builders and contractors, ‘Pollution & Noise from Demolition & Construction Sites’, to ensure that disturbances due to noise, dust and vibration's are kept to a minimum.
Contractors are expected to adopt fully the provisions of the Code, however the Council accepts that this may not always be appropriate and variation's may be sought in consultation with the Pollution Team.
The Code requires that vehicles and plant arriving at and leaving the site should comply with the stated hours of work. Within these hours developers must demonstrate that they use best practicable means to keep noise to a minimum. Any noisy plant or equipment should be placed as far as possible from noise sensitive buildings.
For residential works where occupiers nearby may be affected the hours of noisy works are normally restricted to:
Information about when limited noise is permitted
- Monday - Fridays 8.00am – 6.00pm
- Saturday 8.00am – 1.00pm
- Sunday and Bank Holidays No noisy activities on site
In order to reduce nuisance problems arising from smoke, burning of materials on site is not permitted. Where appropriate and practicable the site should be screened and damped down to prevent dust.
The Code of Practice is sent out to anyone who is granted planning permission where noise and pollution from construction activity may be an issue. A copy is available to developers by contacting Click on the link below on contacting the Pollution Team.
Building sites can involve noisy activities and it is unlikely that a builder can totally avoid all noisy activities. The law allows for conditions to be set to control working hours of construction sites in some cases.
We recommend working hours of 8am - 6pm Monday to Friday and 8am - 1pm on Saturdays. No noisy works should be carried out on Sundays and Bank/Public Holidays.
This will mean that residents are not disturbed at unsocial times.
Many public events such as concerts or discos have to have a Public Entertainment Licence. The purpose of this licence is to avoid disturbance and to ensure the safety of people attending the event. The licence can carry conditions which can set the days and times when events can happen (and when they must finish), and could specify maximum noise levels to avoid disturbing neighbours.
Whether we are talking to others, playing music, entertaining, driving in our cars or just going about our daily business. What is a noise to one person may be pleasurable to another. Excessive noise can reduce the quality of life and, in some extreme cases, even destroy it entirely. The good news is that the number of complaints received by the Council about noisy neighbours has reduced. The bad news is that the Council still receives over hundreds of complaints each year and the sad thing is that most of these can be prevented. Here are seven tips that you can take to prevent you from becoming a noise statistic.
Seven Tips For Keeping The Peace
1.Stereo and TV– Think about the volume of the stereo or TV, particularly if you live in a flat. A good test is that if you can hear it outside your property then it is too loud. Consider using headphones but do be careful if you play it loud as it could cause irreparable hearing damage. Place your TV or hi-fi speakers away from your neighbour's walls and raise them off the floor.
Probably the most common cause of domestic noise complaints is loud music. This is a good example of unwanted sound as the style of music can be just as important as the volume. Some people would accept hearing a loud recording of a violin concert but they would not tolerate a quieter dance recording with a heavy bass beat. This difference in taste, and often lifestyle, means that music complaints are always difficult to deal with and can lead to stress and arguments between neighbours. With a little consideration on one side, tolerance on the other and good communication between neighbours we should all be able to live together without trouble!
2. Household chores- Do not mow the lawn or start DIY work at the crack of dawn, nor should you consider doing washing or vacuuming in the middle of the night. Remember just because you are awake doesn't mean everyone is. Many of us choose to do odd jobs around the home and, usually, this does not cause any problems. Problems do arise when larger repairs are carried out at home by the householder. The last thing most people want is to be woken up on a Sunday morning by drilling and banging from next doors' new extension! Again, we recommend that householders do their DIY between the business hours mentioned under Construction Sites.
If you are carrying out any work at home please let your neighbour know what is happening, and give them an idea how long it will take and when you will be doing the work. It's the "not-knowing" that is usually the biggest cause of worry!
3. Parties– The Council receives large numbers of complaints about noisy parties, particularly during the summer. Neighbours are much more likely to understand if they are warned or even invited but this is no excuse for making loud noise. If possible, keep any amplified equipment inside. If the equipment must be outside then the volume should be turned down as low as possible and after midnight should be taken inside. Keep your entertaining to special occasions. Regular gets together are more likely to offend than one off events. When your guests leave ask them to leave quietly.
4. Dogs- Your pet may bark because it is lonely or bored. Constant barking or howling can be particularly disturbing. A well-trained happy dog will not bark unnecessarily.
Barking comes naturally to dogs, but constant whining or barking can disturb your neighbours. Often the problem happens when you are not at home so the first you know about it could be a complaint, or even a visit from an Environmental Health Officer!
In law, a barking dog can be a noise nuisance and the owner can be fined if they do not stop the nuisance.
Why does my dog bark?
Dogs bark because they are bored, lonely, are defending their territory or if they are ill. If your dog barks you first need to check which of these is the cause.
I leave my dog at home whilst I go to work. How can I prevent it barking?
Feed and exercise it before you leave the house and provide fresh water.
Make sure it has a comfortable bed and leave its favourite toys; otherwise it may play with your belongings! check the room is not too hot nor too cold and that there is enough ventilation. Remember, dogs in conservatories will get very hot in summer and this could be very dangerous.
if your dog likes to hear voices, try leaving a radio on a low volume. Make sure it is not too loud otherwise this could cause more complaints!
if you do not return until after dark, try leaving a light on or else set a lamp to come on when it gets dark or at a certain time.
5. Cars- Don't play your car stereo for the whole world to hear especially when you are parked and the windows are open. Make sure the alarm is not faulty.
6. Household Alarms– A miss firing alarm can cause considerable disturbance to a large number of people, particularly if the householder is away and no key holder is available to turn off the alarm. It can also be expensive for the householder when he or she or returns because if no key holder is available the Council will have no option but to cut off the alarm. The bill for calling out an alarm company will be sent to the householder. Asking a friend to act as your key holder can prevent this. It is important that you tell him how to turn the alarm off and give his name, address and telephone number to the Police. It is also important that the alarm is well maintained and has a 20-minute cut off device.
Burglar alarms and car alarms
If you are suffering from a noise problem from a burglar or car alarm, try and sort it out with the offending party first, before calling the council. It does help to maintain your relationship with the person(s) concerned.
- Try and get as much information as possible, we need to know: The address, location, and names of offenders.
- If it’s a burglar alarm do you know the key holder’s telephone numbers and/or alarm company details.
- Have you contacted the police it may be a crime scene? (The police have an extensive database of key holder’s).
- With a car alarm we need additional information on make, model, colour and registration number of the vehicle.
- 97% of alarms ring due to a fault, not a break-in.
- Alarms can cause a noise nuisance to neighbours.
- Environmental Health have legal powers to have the alarm switched off.
- We may enter the property to have the alarm disconnected.
- We will claim costs from the person responsible for the alarm. The bill can run to hundreds of pounds.
How can I avoid causing a problem?
- Check the alarm system meets British Standards.
- Check the alarm has a 20 minute cut-out device.
- Have the alarm regularly serviced to avoid faults.
Appoint two people nearby who can enter the property to switch off the alarm in your absence. Advise the Police and the Council's Environmental Health Team who these "key holders" are, using the form below. (Print off the form and fill it in. Send one to the address at the bottom of the form, and another one to your local police station). This could save a lot of time... and money!
7. Fireworks– Be considerate to your neighbours and their pets when letting off your fireworks. Do not let them off late at night and inform your neighbours. Attending an organised fire work display is always better and safer than a firework display in your back garden. Always follow the firework safety code.
It is now an offence for fireworks to be let off after 11pm at either a private, or public function.
If you have any concerns with noise from fireworks after this time, please contact your local Police station, who enforce this law.
All responsible dog owners should keep their dogs inside when fireworks in their area are taking place.