Frequently asked Questions
Excessive noise can make life a misery. Noisy Neighbours, disturbance from traffic and aircraft, noise from industry or construction sites and barking dogs are just some of the problems that can be experienced.
- What can I do about noisy neighbours?
- How can I make a complaint about neighbour noise?
- What will the council do?
- What happens if the noise nuisance continues?
- What other action can I take?
- Are there Alternatives to Legal Action?
- How do I notify you of my intent to carry out construction works?
Many noise problems, particularly those involving neighbours, can be resolved informally, for example, by explaining to your neighbours the difficulties they are causing. Approach your neighbour and explain politely that you are being troubled by noise. You may find this difficult, but often people are unaware that they are causing a problem. Most will be glad to do what they can to reduce noise. However, approach the matter carefully if you think your neighbour might react angrily to a complaint. If this approach fails the Council may be able to help.
Complaints can be made in person, by letter, telephone or electronically - see details at the bottom of this webpage. Your complaint should include:-
- Your name and address and (where possible) a daytime phone number.
- The address (or site) where the noise is coming from and the type of noise (e.g. barking dogs, loud music)
- When and for how long the noise occurs (it will help if you have made a written record of the times and dates when the problem has occurred).
- The way the noise affects you (e.g. stops you from sleeping).
- Anything you have done to try and deal with the problem (e.g. speaking to the person making the noise).
Details of your name and address will be kept in strictest confidence. Occasionally, 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.
If the Council decides to take legal action in respect of your complaint, you will be asked to provide a statement and may be required to appear in Court as a witness. We would discuss this with you fully at the time and take your wishes into account.
On receipt of your complaint, we may have to ask you for additional information, if we do not have all the above details. If the problem is the responsibility of another agency we will advise you accordingly.
The Council's initial step in dealing with neighbour noise complaints is to write to the person alleged to be causing the disturbance telling them that a complaint has been made, and advising that investigations will be made should the Council receive further complaints. We aim to write to the person alleged to be causing the disturbance within 3 working days of receipt of your complaint.
At the same time we will write to you to acknowledge receipt of your complaint and may ask you to complete a log sheet, giving details of any further disturbances during the following 2 weeks or so. This record may be used if legal action is subsequently necessary.
If you feel that the noise problem has not improved following our letter to the noisemaker, you should then send the noise log sheet back to us so that an investigation can be made.
We will assess the log sheet 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 access 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.
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 do not need to employ a solicitor, but 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.
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. The Council has a partnership with an independent mediation service who can help the resolution of neighbour disputes. Please contact us if you wish to discuss this further.
You can complete an on-line form here to apply in advance for consent to carry out construction works.