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Cambridge City Council

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Resolve or report a noise issue

Follow these steps if there is a noise issue you wish to resolve.

  1. Try to resolve the problem informally
  2. Consider using the neighbourhood resolution panel scheme
  3. Check what noises you can and can’t report to us
  4. Report the noise using our online form
  5. As a last resort you could take legal action through the courts

Try to resolve the problem informally

Before you consider formally reporting a problem to us, you should first try to approach the person causing the disturbance, if you feel comfortable to do so – they may not be aware that they are causing a problem.

You might also wish to consider using the neighbourhood resolution panel scheme. The scheme aims to help anyone affected by low level crime, antisocial behaviour and neighbour disputes by encouraging all those involved to work together to find a meaningful resolution.

What is noise

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.

Examples of unwanted noise include:

  • street noise
  • loud music
  • musical instruments
  • loud voices and banging
  • intruder, fire, and car alarms
  • DIY noise
  • barking dogs

To find out more, read common sources of unwanted noise.

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.

We are unable to take into consideration an individual’s circumstances or sensitivities.

Noise we are unable to deal with

  • Everyday living noise (see below)
  • Shouting or screaming in the street
  • Sound insulation issues
  • Public firework displays
  • Moving vehicles or road traffic noise
    • the police can act against excessive engine noise or over-loud stereos
  • Aircraft and train noise

Everyday living noise

No house or flat is completely sound-proof – you must accept that you will hear your neighbours sometimes

Examples of everyday living noise include:

  • footsteps and general movement
  • doors closing
  • babies crying or children playing
  • occasional raised voices or laughter
  • people talking in gardens
  • furniture being moved
  • reasonable musical instrument practice

Report noise to us

To report a noise nuisance you will need:

  • information about what the noise nuisance is
  • noise address
  • information on the occurrences of the noise, such as time patterns

Report noise using our online form

How we respond to reported noise issues

We will respond to submitted forms within three working days.

If you have not spoken to your neighbour about your concerns, or considered mediation, then we will give you two weeks to try to resolve the matter yourself informally.

If you do not manage to resolve the problem yourself within those two weeks, then we will investigate the complaint:

  • we will 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 might consider this to be a new complaint
  • we will contact you to discuss your concerns in more detail
  • we might 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
  • we use the Noise app as part of the investigation procedure – we might ask you to submit recordings of the noise that is disturbing you via the app

If there is indication that it is likely that there is a problem, we will write to the person that you have said is causing the noise. This will normally resolve your noise complaint informally.

What happens if the problem cannot be resolved informally

If the problem persists and cannot be resolved informally, then further investigation will be required.

This might involve pre-arranged noise assessment visits or the installation of noise recording equipment.

Once 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 can lead to prosecution or seizure of noise-making equipment.

Complainants’ details are kept confidential throughout the investigation, but should we have to take legal action and the case go to court, we generally must disclose who has made the complaint at that stage. You might also be required to give a formal statement or attend court as a witness.

If following the investigation noise nuisance is not determined, you will be advised that we cannot assist you any further. You might wish to seek independent legal advice about alternative options available to you.

Take a noise complaint to court

If, following investigation, we find that we cannot take formal action or alternatively you would prefer to act yourself, there are other options available.

Any person affected by noise has the right to complain directly to the Magistrates’ Court under section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. You will need to demonstrate to the Magistrate that the problem amounts to a statutory nuisance.

Visit the government’s website to find out more about how to take action through the courts.