This page outlines the main types of noise problems the Environmental Protection Team investigates and the powers available for dealing with them
What is noise nuisance?
A noise nuisance is more than mere annoyance. Noise may be a nuisance because it is of unreasonable duration, frequency or loudness.
What is considered unreasonable?
This is a difficult question because what one person may consider to be unreasonable, another may think it is normal or acceptable. In deciding whether you have a justified complaint, you need to ask yourself "What would be the likely reaction of the average, reasonable person to this noise?". You may like to gauge what other neighbours think of the noise - talk to them and see if they are prepared to support you
The key causes of noise complaints often include:
- loud music or amplified speech
- noisy parties
- barking dogs
- intruder alarms
- car alarms
- noise from places of entertainment
- industrial noise e.g. from ventilation equipment
- building and demolition site noise
- D.I.Y activities
- poor sound insulation between properties
We take problems of noise seriously and have a range of duties and legal powers which can help. These include:
- Investigating noise complaints and taking action for noise abatement
- Planning controls - imposing noise controls when planning applications are considered, working to prevent noise levels from ‘creeping’ up due to successive developments over a period of years
- Measuring noise levels from commercial, industrial and recreational sources to check whether meet acceptable standards
- Licensing controls - imposing noise controls on places of public entertainment when licence applications are considered
- Construction noise controls - promoting good practice on demolition and building sites
What should I do about the problem?
Often, the person causing the noise is not aware that they are causing a disturbance. eg. bass element of music.
If the first contact on the matter is by an Officer from the Council, this can lead to a breakdown in neighbour relations.
It is usually better for the person who is suffering the disturbance to explain the problems to their neighbours. Most people are reasonable and when the situation is explained to them, this often leads to an agreeable solution. If other neighbours are prepared to support you, ask if one of them will go round to the noisy neighbour with you.
How to discuss the problem with your neighbours
It is sometimes best to wait until the noise has stopped and you have calmed down before going round to your neighbour. If you are angry, it is only likely to result in you both saying things that are later regretted.
• Keep the conversation to the current problem - don't raise problems of the past
• A polite, friendly approach is more likely to achieve a result.
• If the noise is about DIY tasks, try to agree reasonable times for noisy activities such as hammering and drilling.
• Ask if your neighbour would like to be invited round the next time you consider the noise to be excessive, so he/she can appreciate the disturbance.
• Never retaliate by causing excessive noise yourself. Your neighbour would be able to take action against you if you were causing a nuisance.
Remember - if the case results in an appearance at a Court of Law, your reasonable behaviour is likely to count in your favour
What should I do if the problem continues?
Staffs, WS11 1BG
Tel: 01543 462621
Fax: 01543 464213
An Officer will then visit you and explain the legislation and procedures that can be taken to resolve the problem. Your complaint will be treated in confidence and your identity will not be given to the person you are complaining about, although he/she may guess who has complained.
An essential part of the procedure involves the keeping of accurate records when the problem occurs and how it affects you. Please be aware that immediate solutions to the problems of noise are rarely available.
A legal Notice may be served on the person or persons causing a statutory noise nuisance. If the Notice is appealed against or not complied with, you and other complainants may need to attend a Magistrates' court. Only at this stage can the person who is causing the noise become aware of who has complained.
If you decide not to involve the Council, the Environmental Protection Act 1990 allows for an individual to take their own action through the Courts and an Officer from the Council can give you information on how you may lodge a complaint that way.
Construction Site Noise
Construction site noise
Building and demolition works are an essential part of modern life. However the noise they create can be very intrusive to people living and working nearby.
It is normally possible to overcome serious disturbance to residents through good site management and a little common sense. Occasionally, however, it is necessary to permit noisy work during antisocial hours with the aim of minimising the period of disruption.
Planning permissions sometimes include conditions intended to minimise impacts of construction noise. Alternatively, Environmental Health Officers can intervene and deal with unacceptable construction noise under the Control of Pollution Act 1974 section 60.
If you are a resident concerned about construction noise, or an operator seeking advice to minimise noise problems, the following advice should be helpful. You may wish to contact us for more specific advice.
Standard construction working hours:
The council expects that potentially noisy construction and demolition activities will only be carried out during the following times:
- 07:30 - 18.00 Monday to Friday
- 07.30 - 13.00 on Saturdays
- No work on Sundays or Bank Holidays
Some types of essential infrastructure works, such as highway resurfacing or railway engineering, can only be carried out at exceptionally quiet times during the night. This is not a licence to generate unnecessary noise.
Controlling construction noise
In addition to controlling working hours, there are some common steps for avoiding unnecessary construction noise:
- Carry out site reconnaissance and identifying noise sensitivity before finalising working methods (developer / lead contractor)
- Formally oblige subcontractors to take responsibility for controlling their noise
- Choose and make provision in costings for working methods (such as piling) and equipment (such as silenced generators and pneumatic machinery) that reflect the noise sensitivity of the site
- Phase demolition / construction work stages to minimise noise impacts
- Make a nominated person responsible for monitoring noise control and liaising with residents
- Inform residents in advance about particularly noisy works or any unavoidable works during antisocial hours
The council does not set standardised noise limits because there is so much variation in background levels from site to site. In noise sensitive locations (residential areas and near schools, hospitals, etc.) a high standard of design, specification and management of noise impacts will be expected. Specific noise limits may be set on a case-by-case basis.
There is a legal mechanism known as Prior Consent that enables developers and contractors to agree noise controls in advance of works starting. The prior consent procedure has advantages for difficult projects and normal works alike:
- Showing that you have adopted a considered, cooperative and responsible approach.
- Enabling you to manage the construction noise concerns of local residents effectively.
- Building in costs for noise assessment and control.
- Preventing delays or further costs where the council finds it necessary to intervene formally for construction noise control during the works.
Prior consent may be granted under the Control of Pollution Act 1974 section 61, subject to conditions. Noise from construction works carried out in accordance with a prior consent will not lead to enforcement. However it is an offence not to comply with the conditions imposed in a prior consent.
If you would like to know more about applying for a prior consent please contact us on (01543) 462621
Public Nuisance and Licensing
The Licensing Act 2003 introduced fundamental changes to the licensing of many premises serving alcohol and refreshments or providing entertainment. One of the four key licensing objectives is the prevention of public nuisance including noise, odours, litter and light pollution.
The council’s Environmental Protection Team is the designated ‘Responsible Authority’ for public nuisance issues under the Licensing Act. This means that it must be served with copies of all relevant applications for new premises licences or variation of existing ones. All applications are checked for likely impacts of public nuisance and appropriate controls are sought. Our published protocol explains how we do this through consultation responses submitted to the Council’s licensing team.
We expect applicants to carefully assess the risks of public nuisance impacts and propose adequate solutions to prevent them.
Applicants are also invited to contact us at any early stage for any further advice we can offer to help ensure high quality applications before formal submission.
Noise from Barking Dogs
By far the greatest number of complaints we receive about noisy animals relates to barking dogs.
It is normal for dogs to bark. However, when that barking turns to loud and continuous barking or frequent bursts of barking throughout the day and night, it can amount to a serious noise nuisance.
I'm disturbed by a barking dog, what should I do?
- Often an owner may be unaware their dog is causing a problem, so before contacting the Council try to discuss the problem with them.
- Next consider writing a polite letter, explaining how the dog’s barking affects you.
- Consider mediation with the dog owner. Try to arrive at an amicable solution.
If the above approach fails
You can make a complaint to the Council. A barking dog complaint will be treated in the same way as any other noise complaint and could lead to us taking action against the dog owner under Statutory Noise Nuisance legislation. Register your complaint by calling Environmental Health on (01543) 462621
My dog barks a lot, what can I do?
- The more tired a dog is the less it will bark - organise regular exercise.
- Do not let your dog bark or whine for long periods or leave it alone for long periods.
- If you, and your partner, are regularly out at work and your dog is left on its own then these are the most likely circumstances under which noise problems will occur. Consider alternatives such as taking your dog with you, leaving your dog with someone else or arranging for someone to visit your dog.
- Try not to excite your dog too much when playing as this will lead to barking - try to keep it calm.
- Do not leave your dog outside late at night or very early in the morning if it is prone to barking.
- Consider seeking professional advice from a vet or pet behaviour specialist.
- For further guidance on what you can do, download the enclosed leaflets.
Noise in the Street
Noise in the street Noise in streets is dealt with by the council using the law of statutory nuisance and this is the only exception to the rule that statutory nuisance must be premises- based.
However, the council can only deal with certain types of noise in streets The Environmental Protection Act 1990, Section 79(ga) states 'noise that is prejudicial to health or a nuisance and is emitted from or caused by a vehicle, machinery or equipment in a street' shall constitute a statutory nuisance.
In practice this music and machinery. Excluded from any action available to local authority is road traffic(when moving along the street), loud speakers used during elections, ice cream vans and military vehicles. Determination of any offence is 'when the local authority is satisfied...', and this may be supplemented by evidence from residents and other people affected by the nuisance as well as technical measurements or physical evidence where appropriate.
Where a statutory nuisance is proven the council are obliged to serve an abatement notice requiring the abatement (stopping) of the nuisance, such a notice would be served on then person responsible for the nuisance. Failure to comply with such a notice can lead to fines of up to £20,000 per incident of non compliance.
In terms of noise in streets it is common for the council to answer complaints relating to malfunctioning car alarm systems by serving notice and then carrying out the work to silence the alarm in default when the time to carry out works stipulated in the notice has expired. Such work will then be charged to the person responsible for the statutory nuisance
Last Updated: 08/03/2019