Section 79(1) of the Environmental Protection Act requires the local authority to take such steps as are reasonably practicable to investigate complaints that relate to:
- Noise from premises (both domestic and commercial)
- Noise from vehicles or equipment in a street (for example, car alarms but not traffic noise)
- Noise from amplified music in the street (for example, car stereos)
- Noise from machinery or equipment in the street
- Noise from bird scarers (Please note, if only advice is required then refer to the National Farmers Union Code of Practice [PDF])
The following are not actionable:
- Noise from shouting and brawling occurring in the street
- Noise from motor vehicles (except in those cases indicated above)
- Noise from the playing of games in the street or public open spaces
Where the department cannot take action, we shall do our best to advise you of other organisations (for example, mediation service, Housing Department and Citizens Advice Bureau or Police) which may be able to assist you.
If noise from your neighbours is making life difficult for you, we would usually expect that you have approached your neighbour to discuss the issue informally. Some people feel that this is not appropriate and the matter has gone past this approach. If this is the case, then the Environmental Health department may be able to help (if you are a South Cambridgeshire District Council or housing association tenant please contact your housing provider for help).
After contacting us we take the following actions
We would in the first instance ask you to keep a log of when you are being bothered by the noise and would ask you to maintain this for 3-4 weeks before returning it to us for assessment. At the same time, we would contact person/people responsible for the noise to advise them that a complaint has been made. At this point no mention is made of where the complaint has come from however in some cases people are able to guess. When we contact the person responsible for the noise, we explain what noise is being complained about and the legislation that we are investigating under. Some people are unaware that they are causing a problem, and this gives them the opportunity to evaluate and consider if any changes are necessary.
If after 3-4 weeks the noises have not reduced and following assessment of your diary, we feel the matter requires further investigation, we will arrange for officer monitoring or installation of recording equipment. This will depend on the frequency and duration of the noise and the times of day that it bothers you.
This process does not give you a quick answer. Your neighbour may stop creating a noise after receiving the first letter about the complaint or they may continue until formal action is taken. Evidence may have to be presented in the Magistrates Court and it is important that at each stage it is collected in the correct manner.
If we gather evidence to support your complaint and we establish that there is a Statutory noise nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 then we can issue a letter which notifies a person that a Statutory Nuisance exists and gives them 7 days to abate the nuisance. If the nuisance continues, no further warning will be given, and a noise abatement notice will be served.
A statutory nuisance is broadly described as something that unreasonably affects the use and enjoyment of your home. Every case is investigated on its own merits considering many variables, every case is unique and investigated thoroughly.
There are cases where we do not have enough evidence to support the any enforcement action under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. In such circumstances, residents are able to take their own private action in court.
We do not take anonymous complaints and require the following details:
- Your name, address and contact number
- The address you are complaining about
- The nature of your complaint
Reducing Noise at Home
Although the amount of noise made by any one person or household may seem negligible, it can make a real difference to the comfort of neighbours and even other members of the household. The following simple measures can be taken:
- Site noisy household equipment (for example, washing machines) away from partition walls.
When buying a new household appliance, ask how noisy it is. If people opt for quiet appliances, manufacturers will make them!
- Perform noisy DIY jobs during normal waking hours.
- Apologise to neighbours in advance for disturbance caused by DIY.
- Keep the volume of TV, radio and music as low as possible, especially late at night. If you want to turn the volume up, use headphones (but be careful not to deafen yourself!).
- If your dog barks when left alone, arrange to leave it with a friend.
- If you have a party, tell your neighbours in advance, and keep the noise to a minimum.
If you have an old or faulty burglar alarm, replace it with one complying with British Standard BS 4737. Notify the local authority that you have an alarm and register a key holder with the police.
If your alarm sounds and the local authority have to disconnect it you are liable for a fine.
We will not usually investigate the following:
- Noise from Aeroplanes - Please contact the Civil Aviation Authority on 020 74536524
Noise from ministry aircraft - Find out about low flying in your area
- Noise from roads - Please Contact the Department of Transport on 020 7944 8300
- Noise from Railways - Please contact Network Rail on 020 7557 8000
- Engine testing noise from Marshall's Airport - Please contact Marshall's on 01223 373950