Environmental Health – The Noise Police
If you are suffering from noise pollution you can usually complain directly to your local authority environmental health department (who are in most areas have the noise police role). In the majority of cases, your local police force do not enforce the specific noise legislation. However, they can be the best agency to go to if there is a wider anti-social behaviour problem or if there are serious disorder issues.
After receiving your complaint the environmental health service officer should then contact you to discuss the nature of your complaint and to advise you as to if and how they propose to investigate the matter. This may be via electronic or written communication.
Noise Complaint Process
They may, in the first instance, require you to keep a log of events. In the meantime, the perpetrator will normally have been contacted by the investigating officer, usually in writing. He should inform them that a complaint has been received and to provide them with an opportunity to rectify the situation. Your identity is not usually revealed to the perpetrator at this stage and in many cases this first contact with the perpetrator from the local authority will help resolve the problem.
However, if the problem persists, it may be necessary for an EHO to witness the noise. To do this they will need to come into your property and access your living areas.
Getting the Noise Witnessed
Local authorities provide different levels of service for responding to noise issues. Levels of service depend upon how much importance your local authority places on the issue and the availability of financial resources.
Where noise problems occur in the daytime or very frequent (for example, every evening) it should be easy for an officer respond very quickly or arrange a time to visit you. If you have provided a comprehensive noise diary this will also help them organise visits (we provide a diary in our online tutorial if you need one).
Many environmental health departments also run evening or weekend noise response services which allow them to visit when noise problems are at their worst. Busy metropolitan areas are more likely to benefit from an ‘out of office hours’ service.
The local authority may be dealing with hundreds of noise nuisance cases. As you are the person affected by the noise it is therefore important that you take the initiative to use the service provided. Make sure that you obtain details of when the service operates and how you can contact them. Use it frequently and be persistent.
Once Evidence has been Obtained
Once sufficient evidence has been gathered indicating that a statutory nuisance exists the officer will serve an abatement notice on the perpetrator. In some cases this can be served immediately and in others it is served within a week. In some cases the abatement notice will give the recipient a time limit to comply with the notice or specify certain measures that need to take place. In other cases, particularly those involving neighbour or music noise, the recipient is instructed to abate the nuisance immediately.
Very occasionally a notice is ignored or not complied with. If this is the case it may be necessary that legal proceedings are taken by the local authority against the perpetrator or equipment needs to be seized. In order to do this the officer will need to witness a breach of the notice. Again, they will rely on you to let them know if the problem is persisting and to provide them with an opportunity to witness the noise.
They may need a witness statement from you at this phase of the investigation and you may be asked if you would be willing to provide evidence in court. Court proceedings are relatively uncommon though and often the work that is carried out behind the scenes by the environmental health officer will result in positive outcomes.
Do you have a noise issue?
If so, check out this information from Noisenuisance.org.