Noise Pollution Times – When is it OK?
One of the questions that we often get asked is “what time is it OK to make noise until?”. The simple answer to that question is that there is no such time specified in statutory nuisance law for noise pollution times; noise can amount to a nuisance at any time. However, in the Noise Act “night-time” is specified as being between the hours of 11pm and 7am; and noise is particularly significant in terms of likelihood for disturbance between these hours.
Clearly, the later the noise the more likely that it will be to disturb and annoy. The frequency of occurrence is also important and other variable factors such as the proximity of other residents and how loud it is. A one-off house party is unlikely to be considered a problem. However, there are circumstances where it would become unreasonable, for example where:
- It continues well beyond midnight;
- Where there are sensitive complainants next door (e.g. young children);
- Where it is taking place outside in a residential area (noise is very intrusive at night);
- Where there is loud amplified music or a band.
Anyone wishing to party at their home beyond 11pm in a garden or marquee, or with music outside, should consider a licensed venue as a more appropriate alternative. Informing their immediate neighbours will rarely be sufficient or effective.
Responding on the Night to Noise
Unless your Council provides a night-time response service it is unlikely they will be able to attend to noise on the night that it is occurring. In such cases, a one-off party will have fizzled out before they have the opportunity to respond (and, in such cases, they are unlikely to be able to respond retrospectively). More regular disturbances can be dealt with proactively by the Council and are worth reporting.
Where a Council does have an “out-of-hours” service at night they will be able to respond quickly on the night. In most cases they will attempt to effect an amicable solution to one-off parties by advising the occupant to reduce the noise and bring people inside. They can take formal action if the noise continues into the early hours and the occupant has refused or taken little (or no) action to abate nuisance.
Construction and Maintenance Works
With regards noise pollution times and building works there is a British Standard that supports the legislation that may be imposed on the construction industry. It suggests that noisy construction or demolition work may take place from 8am to 6pm with a shoulder hour either side (effectively, then, 7am to 7pm). However, there are occasions where work will take place outside those times and at night. Examples of where night-time work is often permitted include on major or trunk roads (for example, where emergency work is needed to services or where disruption would cause significant transport issues) or track-side maintenance on railway systems. Where large infrastructure projects cause sleep disturbance repeatedly, night after night, the Council may use the prejudicial to health limb of the statutory nuisance powers to minimise impact.
When considering permitted hours for noisy construction works it is important to be flexible in your approach. Councils that apply rigid policies precluding evening or weekend works may subject particularly sensitive receptors like schools or clinics to a great deal of avoidable noise. In addition, depending upon the length of the project, it may be preferable to endure a period of evening and weekend works if that significantly reduces the length of the project. More on construction noise.
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