Noise pollution

Noise has been defined as unwanted sound. It is a widespread source of irritation and stress, and can pose a threat to hearing, when at sufficient volume.

Sound is essential in our daily lives; however, noise is not and there is legislation to control excessive noise produced by a variety of activities, i.e. industry, transport and construction sites. 
It must be emphasised that not all noise nuisances can be dealt with by the Local Authority, therefore advice on how private individuals may take action to remedy a situation is also included.
N.B. Noise within the workplace is covered by separate legislation, the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. 

Which areas of noise nuisance we can help with

General noise nuisance is covered by Part III of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and enables local authorities to deal with noise from fixed premises (including land) and from vehicles and equipment in the street (e.g. car alarms) provided the noise is sufficient to be considered a statutory nuisance.

Nuisance from loud speakers and chimes in the street and noise from construction sites is dealt with under Part III of the Control of Pollution Act 1974.

The council has no powers to deal with noise from persons in the street.

Environmental Protection Act 1990

  • Section 79 - defines noise as constituting a statutory nuisance for purposes of the Act and imposes a duty on the Local Authority to inspect their area in order to detect any statutory nuisance (not only noise)
  • Section 80 - imposes a duty on a local authority where it is satisfied of the existence or likely recurrence of a nuisance to serve a notice and to take court proceedings if necessary to remedy the situation.
  • Section 82 - allows the Magistrates Court to act upon a complaint made by any person who is aggrieved by the existence of a noise nuisance.

Control of Pollution Act 1974

  • Sections 60 & 61 - provide the local authority with powers to control noise from construction sites.
  • Section 62 - limits the times during which loudspeakers may be sounded in the street (i.e. ice cream van chimes)
  • Section 63 - provides the Local Authority with the means to designate all or part of its area as a noise abatement zone.

There are rights of appeal against any action under these sections.

Legal advice regarding private action

Although it is not essential, it is advisable to take legal advice as to your prospects of success even if you do not intend or cannot afford to ask a Solicitor to act for you in Court. Such advice can be obtained:

  1.  From the Citizens Advice Bureau,
  2.  At a fixed fee interview with a Solicitor regardless of income,
  3.  With the assistance of Legal Aid, depending upon income qualifications, for help with the preparation of a case but not for conducting the case itself.

If you take your own case there are things you should know about Court procedure. This information will be provided by the Justices' Clerk's Office.

Final remarks

There are two sides to every story. Environmental Health Officers investigate hundreds of complaints of domestic noise and in many cases they find that the person being complained about has just as plausible a story as the complainant. Environmental Health Officers do not act for individuals professionally and unless the council is itself bringing a case they cannot take sides in any dispute. If called upon to give evidence they will do so as they find the facts, which may be different to your own views.

Very often it is found that relationships between neighbours are strained and that the noise complaint is just part of a greater and sometimes complicated dispute. In these circumstances the Environmental Health Officer will often recommend the complainant to take his own case. The Magistrates' Court then has to decide the rights and wrongs of the situation.

Remember that the person you complain about may be able to produce counter-arguments in  defence which are just as real to them as your grievances are to you. One thing you must do is be quite certain of the grounds of your complaint and that you are not overreacting to a situation which many people would find acceptable.