The following provides a brief summary of the main specific noise pollution laws invoked in relation to neighbourhood noise and nuisance issues.
Section 79 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 lists two statutory nuisances relating to noise:
(a) Noise emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance; and
(b) Noise emitted from or caused by a vehicle, machinery, or equipment (which term includes a musical instrument) in a street, which is prejudicial to health or a nuisance.
When, after investigation, it is found that a complaint from a resident falls into one of the above categories the local authority must serve an abatement notice. Where the terms of a section 80 abatement notice are not complied with the local authority may initiate criminal proceedings. They (by virtue of s.10 of the Noise Act 1996) may also seize and remove equipment.
Other Noise Pollution Laws
PERSONS AGGRIEVED – TAKE YOUR OWN ACTION
Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 enables magistrates (or a sheriff in Scotland) to take action on receipt of a complaint from a person aggrieved by noise that amounts to a nuisance. Complaints may be made by occupiers of premises and may relate to noise emitted from premises or from vehicles in the street (but does not apply to noise from aircraft, traffic, military or Crown).
If the magistrate is satisfied that the nuisance exists (or existed and is likely to recur) it may make an order requiring the person responsible to abate the nuisance within a certain time (or to prohibit it recurrence). Where the person responsible can’t be found proceedings may be brought against the owner or occupier.
We explain more about how you can take your own action to resolve noise in our tutorial.
In England and Wales noise emitted from residential or licensed premises between the hours of 11pm and 7am exceeding the permitted level may be investigated by an authorised officer of the local authority. A warning notice may be served on the person who appears to be responsible for the offending premises. If, after a minimum period of 10 minutes after service, the permitted level is exceeded the person responsible may be found guilt of an offence. A fixed penalty procedure is available as an alternative to prosecution.
NOISE FROM AUDIBLE INTRUDER ALARMS
Authorised officers of the local authority have powers to enter premises and silence intruder alarms where they have been sounding continuously for 20 minutes or intermittently for an hour and are likely to give cause for annoyance. In order to gain entry using reasonable force a warrant must first be obtained from a magistrate.
The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 contains powers for local authorities to designate alarm notification areas. The provisions require occupiers or owners of any premises to notify the local authority of key-holders. There are fixed penalty notices for those who fail to nominate or notify of key-holders.
NOISE FROM CONSTRUCTION SITES
Sections 60 and 61 of the control of Pollution Act 1974 provide powers for local authorities to restrict noise relating to work carried out on construction or demolition sites. This includes the ability to specify hours of work or restrict types of equipment used.
You can read in more depth about the laws and how you can ensure that are applied properly with our Resources.