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Noise - frequently asked questions

Are my expectations unreasonable?

If you are being disturbed by noise first ask yourself "Have I become oversensitive to the situation?" particularly if you don't get on with the noise-maker(s). Are you "tuning in" to the noise and find it annoying even when other people wouldn't? This situation is quite common and the noise problem, though annoying to you, may not be suitable for action by the council.

Likewise, is the noise-maker behaving unreasonably? If not, then it is unlikely they are causing a noise nuisance that can be addressed. However if you think they are behaving unreasonably, approach them and explain politely and calmly that you are troubled by the noise. Attempt to find a solution that suits you both. Although you may feel this is a difficult step, often this is all that is needed to solve the problem. To assist you, practical advice and tried-and-tested solutions can be accessed from the Noise Control main page.

What can be done about noisy neighbours?

If you are concerned about the noise coming from a neighbour, often the best way to deal with the problem is to approach them diplomatically. Talk to the person responsible for the noise and explain the problem. You may find them to be quite unaware they are disturbing you. Remember, we can all be guilty of making noise at some time without knowing it. A special effort may be required to keep the discussions civilised, but this is very important if you are to be successful. Alternatively a polite note through the door might do the trick.

What if they continue to cause a problem after I've asked them to stop?

You have two options. You have the right to take your own legal action under Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (as amended). The procedure will be explained by your solicitor or by the magistrates court clerk if you telephone them.

Alternatively you can make a formal complaint. Complaints are usually investigated by the council’s Environmental Protection Team, however Council Housing Services deals with noise complaints concerning council houses. Occasionally complaints about large industrial sites are dealt with by the Environment Agency – however you should contact the Environmental Protection Team in the first instance.

What can the Environmental Protection Team do to help?

The Environmental Protection Team will take an independent approach when dealing with noise complaints. In the first instance this is usually an informal discussion. The person complaining will normally be required to provide evidence that the noise causing complaint is sufficiently severe, frequent and/or sustained that it might be a statutory nuisance.

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (as amended) the council has a duty to investigate complaints about noise. If after investigation it is satisfied that a Statutory Nuisance exists, it has a duty to take formal action such as serving a legal Abatement Notice. It is an offence to fail to comply with an Abatement Notice.

The penalty can be a fine of up to £5,000 (up to £20,000 in the case of a trade or business, or on indictment an unlimited fine or even imprisonment). However prosecution of such offences can take many months and other means will be tried first or in addition. If the perpetrator will not cooperate then the council has the power to do what is necessary to abate the statutory nuisance, such as seizing noise equipment.

Last updated: 23 November 2016