Living as part of a community means that many people experience a reasonable amount of day to day noise from neighbours. This is not unusual and should be expected. Sometimes though, when noise happens a lot, becomes too loud (or both) and starts to affect other people it can be classed as a "statutory noise nuisance" in law.
Noise problems often go hand in hand with other anti-social behaviour problems. The Council works closely with other agencies to try to help with these problems. These include the Police, the Community Safety Partnership and housing associations.
The point where noise stops being acceptable and becomes a nuisance can be a difficult to judge. The things that help to decide whether noise is a nuisance in a given situation can include;
- the loudness and type of noise
- how long the noise goes on for
- how often the noise occurs
- time of day or night when the noise occurs;
- character and the type of noise;
- character of the area
- how noise sensitive the person making the complaint is
There are certain noise sources that can be easily dealt with by law (Environmental Protection Act 1990) and there are others that can't.
Noise problems we can help with
The following are types of noise nuisance that are often dealt with by the Council. The list covers the most common (but not all) types of problem that we should be able to help you with.
- loud music
- barking dogs and other noisy animals e.g. cockerels
- burglar alarms / car alarms
- DIY noise (e.g. late at night)
- noise from pubs, clubs and other entertainment venues
- industrial / commercial noise
Noise problems we can't help with
The following list gives types of noise that in most cases can't be dealt with as a noise nuisance in law. Again the list covers most but not all types
- normal sounds of living –e.g. footsteps, closing doors, talking, using household appliances during the day etc. are unlikely to be a nuisance covered by the law
- traffic / train noise from a road / railway
- street anti-social behaviour (please call the Police about this)
- babies crying or young children playing
The laws about noise can be hard to understand, so if you are in any doubt about the problems you are having with noise then you should contact us to talk about it.
Help with noise problems
Before we take any action we usually recommend that you talk to your neighbours about the problems you are having with their noise, although there may be a reason why you feel unable to do this.
If you make your point in a calm and neighbourly way then your neighbour is more likely to respond positively; they may be genuinely unaware that they are disturbing you and once you have told them you may find that the situation improves.
If this does not improve the situation and you are still disturbed by the level of noise coming from your neighbours, then you need to consider contacting us to make a formal complaint. By law the Council has to investigate noise nuisance if asked.
Complaining to the Council
Sometimes the Council can serve a legal notice on a noisy neighbour, prosecute them for not complying with the notice or even seize noisy equipment such as stereos to stop the problem. All of these actions are legal processes and may need to be dealt with by a court.
Providing the noise is not continuous e.g. a burglar alarm, and before we are able to progress your complaint we need some written evidence from you stating the dates and times that noise occurs and how this is affecting you.
A written diary is the first step in investigating if a nuisance does or does not exist and is kept as a record of the problem. We need this because whether a noise is counted as a nuisance or not depends on several different things (see above).
Diary record sheets form the basis of any action that the Council may take and are essential in solving any noise problem so it is very important that you fill them in as part of the investigation.
Download a set of diary sheets in PDF format or contact us and we will send you some in the post along with a return envelope.
All complaints are dealt with confidentially; we do not tell the person making the noise who has complained about them.
Please note that although we keep your details confidential we cannot accept anonymous noise complaints. This means that you will need to tell us your name and address. Generally the law needs to know that somebody is being disturbed by noise before we can do something about a complaint. A complaint cannot be proven if we do not know who is making it.
Most problems are resolved without the need for a court appearance but in the rare circumstances that a noise nuisance case does go to court it may be more difficult to keep your details confidential. A case will only go to court with your full consent.
After filling in your diary record sheets send them to us at our contact address. If you do not return your record sheets then usually we will be unable to progress your complaint further.
After you return your diary sheets the council will contact the person who you have told us is making the noise nuisance, usually by letter. They will be told that a complaint has been received and will be asked to control their noisy behaviour. We will also contact you to explain how we can help further.
If the letter does not solve the problem then we need to gather more evidence about the problem noise for us to be able to help further.
The Council usually gathers further evidence in one of two ways.
Once we have the evidence we need we can make a judgment based upon it (record sheets, visits and noise monitoring). If we decide that there is a noise nuisance we will serve a "noise abatement notice" on the person responsible for the noise. This is a legal order requiring them to stop the nuisance. If they do not comply with the notice they can be prosecuted.
In certain circumstances if the nuisance continues then the council can seize noise making equipment e.g. stereo, TV or DJ equipment or anything else that may have been used in committing the noise offence.
Please note that we may decide that there is no noise nuisance and be unable to help you further. We act independently to decide if there is a noise nuisance according to the law and only the more serious cases are likely to need legal action.