Noise

Looking to make a noise complaint?

A noise nuisance is an act that:

  • unreasonably and substantially interfere with the use or enjoyment of a home or other premises
  • injures health or be likely to injure health

Reasonable expectations are:

  • To be able to sleep without disturbance during the times normally used for sleeping.
  • Not to hear excessive noise from neighbours in their home on a regular basis, e.g., DIY, barking dogs, loud music, alarms

Noise must generally be consistent, excessive and / or unreasonable. Light sleepers and those sensitive to noise will have to accept some disturbance. The council cannot deal with noise from ordinary domestic activities or where poor sound insulation exists. The Law does not permit anybody the right to silence. There is also no prescribed legal cut off point for levels of noise or times when noise must be controlled, and it is recognised people have varying tolerances or sensitivities to noise.

For this reason, a qualified officer of the authority is deemed to be the reasonable person and will determine if noise amounts to a statutory nuisance via a prescribed process of escalatory investigation. The word of the complainant, alone, is not sufficient for the Local Authority to prove nuisance. Therefore, the investigating officer must be able to witness the nuisance, possibly on several separate occasions. This may include the use of surveillance equipment. The following are factors that the officer will take into consideration:

  • Time of Day
  • Frequency
  • Duration
  • Intensity
  • Character of the Noise
  • Your location
  • Source and motives

When being disturbed by noise, having a polite word with the people making it (if it is safe to do so) is often all that is needed to resolve the problem as most people don’t realise the effect their actions have on others and don’t want to upset their neighbours. If you don’t feel comfortable talking directly, consider writing and letter and posting it to your neighbour. Taking this action first, before reporting the matter to the council, can avoid making situations worse. For example, whilst we can deal with some noise problems, there are also some that we cannot assist with and an approach from us ‘out of the blue’ can cause resentment and make the issue harder to sort out. Tamworth Borough Council always strives to resolve noise complaints informally, however on the occasions formal intervention is required, this can result in the issuing of an ‘Abatement Notice’ requiring the nuisance to stop. Failure to comply with such a notice can result in seizure of equipment and or prosecution.

If the noise nuisance is a consequence of anti-social behaviour, the Environmental Health Department may engage other authorities with the view to potentially issue a Community Protection Warning. This warning sets conditions to adhere to that should resolve the noise nuisance, a Community Protection Notice may follow for noncompliance. Failure to comply with a notice can result in a fixed penalty fine, prosecution and a Criminal Behaviour Order.

Laws regarding noise nuisance

Environmental Protection Act 1990
The Council’s Environmental Protection Team deals with Noise Nuisance under Part III of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Section 79 (1) (g) states that a noise nuisance is:

‘Noise emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance’. (“Prejudicial to health” means injurious, or likely to cause injury to health)

Enforcement available: An Abatement Notice may be served which requires the noise nuisance to stop. Failure to comply with an Abatement Notice is an offence and legal proceedings may result. If found guilty of an offence of this type, then the maximum fine is £5000 on domestic premises and unlimited on commercial premises.

Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014
Noise nuisances, typically those of an anti-social behaviour nature, can be dealt with using S.43. This allows the Council to issue ‘Community Protection Warnings & Community Protection Notices’.

Enforcement available: Breach may result in prosecution in court. Fines can be awarded to the amount of £2500 for individuals & £20000 for businesses. This may also result in a Criminal Behaviour Order being requested & awarded. Alternatively, forfeiture orders can be made, or remedial orders

Control of Pollution Act 1974
Noise from Construction Activities are controlled by the Council under Section 60 & 61 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974.

Loudspeakers in the Street are controlled under Section 62 which limits the times during which loudspeakers may be sounded in the street.

Common types of noise nuisance – Guidance

These are not exhaustive lists! If in doubt, please contact us to discuss.

The Council will normally investigate:

  • Domestic Noise (loud music; televisions / radio; persistent shouting, banging or other unreasonable domestic noise)
  • Intentional aggravation via noise
  • Building and DIY work at unreasonable times of the day
  • Noise from Entertainment Venues (Pubs, Nightclubs etc)
  • Noise from Commercial Premises (e.g., Refrigeration Equipment)
  • Noise from Construction Sites
  • Noise from animals such as barking dogs, or cockerels
  • Noise from Intruder Alarms (including car alarms)
  • Noise emitted from, or caused by, a vehicle or equipment in the Street
  • Air cons, extractor fans, plant machinery + other similar equipment
  • Sporting events
  • Licensed businesses and events
  • Musical instruments

The Council will not normally investigate, but please send in a complaint if you’re unsure. These have been found to not meet the requirements for a statutory nuisance:

  • Children playing.
  • One-off party or celebration.
  • Normal household noise during reasonable hours, such as washing machines and tumble driers, doors shutting, flushing toilets, footsteps, and talking.
  • Issues caused by houses having poor sound insulation.
  • Road traffic and rail noise.
  • Fireworks (unless associated with Anti-social behaviour)
  • Anonymous complaints
  • Transitional noise, e.g., dogs on a walk

The council also cannot assist with:

  • Housing association properties - please contact your HA which will have a policy on complaints & anti-social behaviour
  • Aircraft - please contact the UK Civil Aviation Authority for non-military aircraft to make a complaint. You may also wish to contact the airfield you believe is associated with the noise as they will have their own complaints process. Military aircraft complaints should be directed to the MoD.
  • Railway noise - please contact Network Rail
  • Highway noise - please contact National Highways
  • Domestic disputes - please contact the police

Noise complaint procedure

To give you an efficient and effective service, the following procedure is applied to all new complaints.

1.     Receive complaint

To log your complaint, we will need:

  • Reporter details: (this information is for the purpose of logging the call only and will not be disclosed to any other party).
  • Name, address and contact telephone number
  • Subject details: Address of the property relating to the noise nuisance
  • Description: Brief outline of the problems experienced

2.      Initial Letter Stage

Letters are sent to:

a) the address where the noise causing the alleged nuisance is occurring

b) the person who made the complaint - a "nuisance diary" is enclosed to record details of any further nuisance.

3.      Noise diary review

At this stage an officer will review the contents of your noise diary and decide whether to escalate or close your complaint.

4.     Noise monitor/ NoiseApp or officer observations

If the complaint is continued, an officer will contact you to discuss collecting evidence via a noise monitor installed in your home, or an app used on smartphones. An officer may also attend to witness the nuisance in person.  

5.      Escalation

Should the investigating officer decide that the noise amounts to a statutory nuisance an Abatement Notice will be served on the person responsible for the nuisance, or the owner or occupier of the property from where the noise originates. The Notice will prohibit the recurrence of further noise nuisance or, if necessary, specify a time limit for remedial work to be done. In some instances, a noise nuisance may not reach the criteria for statutory nuisance, however if it:

  • has a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality
  • is unreasonable and
  • is of a persistent nature

A ‘Community Protection Warning’ may be served. If the warning is not followed, this may be followed with a ‘Community Protection Notice’. Note: both an Abatement Notice and a Community Protection Warning/Notice can be served for the same nuisance.

6.      Further Complaint & Prosecution

The noise will be monitored and if a "statutory nuisance" still exists this will normally result in the next step in the procedure, which is to prosecute the person who received the Abatement Notice, in the Magistrates Court. Likewise Failing to comply with a CPN is a criminal offence and can lead to a court summons and, on conviction, can result in a fine of up to Level 4, currently £2,500 for individuals, or £20,000 for businesses. A Criminal Behaviour Order may be sought, or, you may be given the opportunity of accepting in lieu of prosecution a fixed penalty, in the amount of £100

7.     Taking private action

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 makes provision for a complainant (individual or company) to make an application directly to a magistrates’ court to make an order for abatement or prevention (nuisance orders).

Some types of nuisances occur only occasionally, and it may not be possible for us to witness it, or we may feel we could not prove in a court that the issue complained of is a nuisance. If, for whatever reason, we cannot establish a statutory nuisance, or you do not wish to involve us, then you can take independent action by complaining direct to the magistrates' court under section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

A nuisance may also be actionable by the person suffering from it under common law and outside of the statutory nuisance regime. This is different to approaching a magistrates' court. Advice should be sought from a solicitor before taking action in the county court or High Court.

How to contact us

For further information, advice, or to make a complaint, please contact:
Tamworth Borough Council. Marmion House, Lichfield Street, Tamworth, Staffordshire, B79 7BZ
Tel: 01827 709709
Email: enquiries@tamworth.gov.uk