Everyone's perception of noise, or unwanted sound, is different. It's not just a question of sound levels in decibels, but of what is acceptable to the average person – and what one person considers unacceptable may not seem unreasonable to somebody else.
If you are being disturbed by noise you should first try to have a friendly conversation with the person causing it – they may not be aware that they are causing a problem.
If you are unable to resolve the issue you should contact us to assist you. You also have the right to take your own legal action.
- To tell us about an ongoing complaint, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 01223 457900
- To report serious noise issues outside of our business hours, phone 0300 303 8389
We have a duty to deal with statutory nuisances, which are defined by the Environmental Protection Act 1990 as "prejudicial to health or a nuisance" – in other words, noise that would be considered a nuisance to the average person, rather than noise of a specific volume.
Our officers are trained to decide if the noise you are being disturbed by is a statutory nuisance. If we believe a statutory nuisance exists we will serve an abatement notice which if breached may resolve in court proceedings.
Note that noise caused by aircraft and trains is not within our jurisdiction:
- For train and railway noise, contact Network Rail on 0845 711414
- For noise from Marshalls Airport, call 01223 373950
If you are planning an event that might cause a lot of noise, or are thinking of busking in the city centre, these guides offer advice on how to minimise the chances of anybody wanting to complain:
How we respond to reported noise issues
We have to decide what is reasonable and what is not before taking action. The Environmental Protection Act 1990 sets out the legal provisions regarding the investigation of noise nuisance and the relevant enforcement powers, and our officers are experienced at judging issues and enforcing suitable solutions.
When an issue is reported to us, the first thing we do is check whether there have been any similar complaints made against the person or property in the past. If we have not received similar complaints in the last 12 months we consider this to be a new complaint.
Our first response is to send a letter, informing the occupiers of the household that a complaint has been made. We will also write to you to confirm what action we have taken and what procedures we will follow.
We may ask you to keep a diary of the extent of the issue, including for example the date, time, duration, and a description of the noise each time it occurs.
Certain types of noise are difficult for us to assess, so we might ask you to contact us when the issue next occurs. We are usually available during the day. Our out-of-hours noise service is available from 7pm to 7am from Thursday to Sunday, and from 9am to 5pm at the weekend.
If we are satisfied that a nuisance is being caused, we will usually serve a statutory noise abatement notice, to prevent a recurrence of the problem. The notice will require the noise to be reduced to a level which is not a statutory nuisance, within a reasonable time dependent on the circumstances of the case.
Any breach of this notice may lead to prosecution and/or seizure of noise making equipment.
The use of noise recording equipment is assessed on a case-by-case basis. First-hand officer evidence is always preferred where possible, because the use of recording equipment may rely on the person in whose property it was installed in to attend court as a witness during a prosecution.
We do not make copies of recordings available to the general public as a matter of course, and respond to any requests to do so in accordance with our responsibilities under the Environmental Information Regulations and the Data Protection Act.
Take a noise complaint to court
The Environmental Protection Act 1990 gives you the right to take a noise complaint to your local magistrate’s court, where a nuisance order can be issued and a fine imposed.
If you wish to do this, you should first make a record of the problem – including for example the date, time, duration, and a description of the noise each time – and notify the person causing the noise that you plan to take legal action against them.
If the noise continues unabated you should visit the warrant office at the magistrate’s court, who will guide you through the process. It is also recommended that you discuss the matter with a solicitor.