Noise and Health Effects

Noise and Health

The World Health Organisation provide a very useful definition of health:

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

We know that noise has an effect on one’s well-being. Furthermore, we know that our quality of life or well-being can have an affect our physical and mental health; there is, for example, evidence that annoyance and sleep disturbance can give rise to adverse health effects. Sleep is a biological necessity so it is not surprising that there is a causal relationship between poor health and sleep disturbance. After our sleep is disturbed we become tired and irritable; limiting our performance in school or at work and, potentially, impacting on our personal relationships. Long-term sleep disturbance is also associated with a higher risk of experiencing poor cardiovascular health.

A larger foundation of research on the direct impact that noise has on physical health is being built. Although, much of the current research relating to health effects (such as noise impact on cardiovascular health) relates to transport noise. Noise has an indirect causal relationship on health though, and there can be a degree of subjectivity involved in measuring something which may not cause disease directly (where there is a causal chain).

High Risk Groups

There are some groups of people that are at higher risk to exposure to noise than others, these include:

  • Children
  • The elderly
  • Shift workers
  • Pregnant women
  • Those already in poor health

Anyone who has cared for children will be aware that children have a higher awakening threshold than adults which may, at first, make one assume that they are less sensitive to noise. However, the heightened effects of sleep disturbance on children make them much more vulnerable to noise than the average adult.

The sleep patterns of the elderly, pregnant women and those in poor health are already likely to be fragmented. Whereas the circadian rhythm of a shift worker has already been adapted. In these groups, therefore, any additional impact on sleep disturbance can have a deleterious effect.

The Law

Whilst the law enables enforcers to protect the personal comfort and health of those affected it may not always take account of the particular circumstances or sensitivity of the individual. Statutory nuisance, for instance, must be measured against the sensitivities of “the man on the Clapham omnibus” (an average reasonable man). However, in relation to some of the mechanisms within the anti-social behaviour legislation, some allowances may be made when considering measures to prevent excessive noise disturbance to those who may be affected more than others.

Covid-19 and Noise – Neighbour Noise Intensified or Temporary Respite?

Neighbour Noise Intensified – Lockdown Noise

In some areas it has been reported that nuisances due to neighbour noise have risen. Many will have, certainly, noticed that the number of bonfires taking place mushroomed in the first couple of weeks of ‘lockdown’. Being stuck next to a nuisance neighbour whilst being confined to your home is torturous; thank goodness for the ability to go out for a walk once a day but spare a thought for those who are not able.

During this time the response of the local authorities has been mixed. Some have provided limited or full services though and continue to respond to noise complaints from sufferers; as well they should. Longer-term issues with anti-social behaviour need to be dealt with in a systematic way. If, however, this is a new found problem due to the recent change in circumstances it may be worth raising the issue with your neighbour. Now, perhaps more than any other time, there are plenty of ways we can find to break the ice and start friendly (socially distant!) conversations.

Temporary Respite

To those unaffected by neighbour nuisance issues, the significant reduction of transportation noise (particularly for those under flight paths and near to busy roads) has been a revelation. People have commented that they have become aware of birdsong in cities for the first time. Many are appreciating the soundscapes of the great outdoors, or the countryside, without the unwanted intrusions associated with modern life. Animals have become more inquisitive and less afraid to cross human boundaries. At least we can say that our relationship with wildlife has become more social and less distant.

There has even been less seismic activity due to fewer transportation movements and less mechanical activity. Imagine that; significant reductions in vibration in the Earth’s crust!

If you have it, enjoy the peace – whilst it lasts

I am surprised at how many people own jet-washers. Although, for the time being, I think I can ignore this seemingly over-riding human impulse for clean driveways by enjoying our, otherwise, unspoilt soundscape (for as long at it lasts). On the other hand, the temptation by some to encroach on our senses by lighting bonfires might put pay to that!

Noise from Neighbours – Loud Parties

Noisy Party? – Noise from Neighbours

Have you got a problem with noise from neighbours? Is this a one-off or are your neighbours regular party animals?

One-off birthday celebrations, such as 21st or 60th birthday parties, are normally accepted as consequence of everyday life and behaviour. Local authorities are more likely to take action against people who have regular parties, celebrations that are not conducted in a reasonable manner and those that extend well beyond 11pm.

Loud music outside after 11pm is not usually a good idea, particularly where there are other residential properties nearby. Whilst the use of DJ’s and live bands are not restricted by legislation they will be more suited to functions rooms and commercial premises than to residential premises. Marquees are often viewed (by those who have the space and can afford to hire them!) as the ideal way of celebrating a significant birthday. However, they will offer little in the way of sound insulation. Loud music, particularly at night, will have the potential to affect residents across a number of streets or neighbourhood; that is why amplified music outside is not recommended (especially at night). The size and scale of the party is also likely to have an effect on the impact on neighbours and the potential for public nuisance. Perpetrators who have been approached and who are uncooperative are also more likely to face enforcement action.

The legislation that can be used in these circumstances include Statutory Nuisance and Noise Act procedures. The Noise Act allows an officer to serve a warning notice on the person responsible for the noise and can be used between the hours of 11pm and 7am. If the noise continues after a warning notice has been served and exceeds the permitted noise level he may issue a fixed penalty notice (read more about the Noise Act). Whilst officers have powers to seize equipment in certain circumstances seizures are unlikely to be used on the night and are usually implemented as part of planned enforcement activity.

Some local authority night-time noise services are labelled as “Noisy Party Patrols” and respond in real-time to complaints about noise from neighbours. In practice though they are mainly used to catch persistent or unreasonable offenders rather than monitor parties. They can often be used to report and provide a quick response to all forms of noise pollution. Not all local authorities provide a party patrol or out-of-hours service though; particularly rural or small authorities. Many have reduced their services in recent years.

Your local authority website should detail out of hours services which will often have a different contact number to the regular service. Find your local authority website here and, once you have gone to your local authority website, search for services under “noise” or by using the A-Z links. In areas where local and County councils operate you should contact your local (i.e. District or Borough Council).

Raves and organised (but unlicensed) outdoor parties will have the potential to cause public nuisances. In these circumstances the Police may also have powers to break up problem parties and may be a useful alternative.


Have you seen our guidance?

The Need for Sound Measurements in Noise Evidence

The Need for Acoustic Evidence in Nuisance Cases

We read with interest two recent articles from Environmental Health News reviewing two recent noise cases where the subject of acoustic evidence was brought up.

The first1 made mention of Southampton City Council v Odysseas2 in a High Court judgement that resulted in the local authority loosing an appeal. It turned out that a club who had received an abatement notice was not operating at the time of the alleged disturbance that led to the service. Criticism was made of the opinion made by the officer as it was based on a single visit where the officer had failed to locate the source of the noise. Reference in the article was then made to a well known and significant case, Hackney v Rottenberg3, stating that the officer’s evidence ‘would have been more credible had a properly conducted scientific assessment been made involving the recording and analysis of noise measurements/recordings’.

The second4 entitled “Councils Need to Record Noise” made mention of an appeal at a magistrates’ court involving Westminster Council. It was said by an acoustic consultant involved in the case that the judge was critical ‘that there was no corroborative evidence’ and that ‘the notice was served after just one 15 minute visit’.

The Need for Decent Quality Noise Evidence

The suggestion that either case places any requirement on officers to provide an acoustic assessment of noise, or even record it, would be incorrect. In fact the words of the judge in Hackney v Rottenberg (the case quoted in the first of the articles) may actually offer a contrary view. The words of Mr Justice David Clarke are found in the judgement:

‘The subjective judgment in the end is that of the court. If the standard were an objective one, to be measured by some yardstick such as the level of decibels of noise at particular times of day, the case might have been very different. But such a regime of objective measures would have to take into account so many different factors as to be quite unworkable, and there is no such objective standard prescribed by Parliament.’

The Hackney v Rottenberg decision centred around the court’s right not to accept the expert evidence tendered by the environmental health staff (which, in this particular case, was particularly weak). We can not draw any conclusions over the necessity for acoustic evidence. However, the one significant point that both cases do remind us of is the need for the local authorities (and housing associations) to provide sufficient evidence that the threshold for nuisance has been crossed; decent quality evidence.

Acoustics Can Have a Place

It has been found that noise is capable of being a nuisance even when an average measured level is found to be below the background level; particularly if there is a prominent tonal component or characteristic. Judgements in the UK courts have shown that reliable and comprehensive evidence on the character and impact of noise can trump scientific evidence (such as in Godfrey v Conwy5).

Statutory nuisance is not defined in law by any acoustic standard; it can’t be. However, sound recordings may often provide a useful contribution to noise evidence presented by enforcers; particularly if they are able to be played back in suitable conditions. Acoustic measurements and calculations may also provide support to accompany other evidential elements. Importantly, though, the person introducing that part of the evidence must be able (have sufficient expertise) to analyse and explain the significance of the measurements; usually against a known standard. It is worth pointing out, in addition, that acoustic evidence and any use of standards may be subject to challenge; and, where that is the case, may complicate proceedings.

WHO guidance on sleep disturbance and daytime annoyance and BS 4142 guidance for industrial sources of noise are two examples of standards that could be applied to noise measurements. They are no measure of nuisance though, and should not be relied upon in isolation. gathering evidence around the variable factors for nuisance is a fundamental step that should be made in any investigation before an opinion is formed.

References

1. Environmental Health News, June 2018, p.23
2. Southampton City Council v Odysseas (OP Co) Ltd [2017] EWHC 2783 (Admin)
3. Hackney v Rottenberg [2007] EWHC 166 (Admin)
4. http://www.ehn-online.com/news/article.aspx?id=17244
5. Godfrey v Conwy CBC 200

Checking a New Property for Noise

New Property Noise – Prospective Home Buyers or Renters

Our noise surveys have shown that living in close proximity to neighbours is likely to increase your chances of suffering from noise problems. With more and more properties being squeezed into smaller spaces and the country becoming increasingly populated we all need to be wise to new property noise when renting or buying property.

When reading an article on noise nuisance I noted the sage advice “check out the area before you buy”. Similar advice is given by a number of housing advisors. Seems obvious doesn’t it? Sure it does, but you’d be surprised at how many people do not do their research. Noise is one of the top FIVE bugbears for home buyers or renters and the no.1 source of complaints for local Councils. A few simple checks can help minimise the risks.

DO YOUR RESEARCH

Go and visit the area where you are proposing to live. Survey the immediate and surrounding vicinity. What are the potential noise sources for new property noise?

  • Do the neighbours have dogs?
  • Is it located next to commercial or industrial buildings or land?
  • Is it near to a busy road, railway or on a flightpath?
  • Do students occupy property next door?
  • Will anything attract people to congregate (e.g. playground or community centre)?
  • Do the neighbours look anti-social (e.g. congregating refuse or unkempt property)?

Visit at different times of the day and night (or late evening) and make some observations (without snooping!). Weekends can also make a difference in some cases. When it comes to flightpaths you also need to be clear about wind-direction and mixed paths (some areas can be silent for days before the routes are changed).

Consider seasonal changes as well. Whilst that pub may be silent in winter, it may maximise the outdoor space throughout the summer in order to stay open. Gardens are a regular cause for concern; as are smokers on the street at night.

You can research further by looking at planning restrictions or case histories associated with commercial or industrial property. Find out how many noise complaints have been received by your local Council’s environmental health department and ask about planning restrictions such as times and conditions with the planning departments. Remember though, situations can change; land can be redeveloped and businesses change hands.

Finally, make a viewing of the property; as many times as possible. This is usually arranged through an estate agent or managing agent of the landlord.

CAN WE HANDLE IT?

Let’s say that you’ve found your dream property but there are some warning signs apparent. Consider whether there are any practical measures that may be taken to reduce the impact of any noise. Improvements in flats may be a possible solution, for example, to tackle internal issues associated with poor sound insulation. Double glazing may help reduce impacts from transportation noise or busy high streets (although ventilation and being able to open a window are also important).

How long are you going to live there and why have you chosen that area? If it is a short-term let it will clearly be less important than a home where you wish to retire or bring up children. If you are buying a property with a view to refurbishment you may also consider altering internal or external arrangements (e.g. move bedrooms around or screen an outdoor area.

Who is Most Likely to Complain About Noise?

Who is most likely to complain about noise?

This article provides some more information about the people who complain about noise. We’ve provided plenty of information previously, following our noise surveys, that highlights the problems that people in densely populated areas suffer with. More recently we looked into the age and gender profiles of people using our services online.

The collection of community data has taken place for millennia, in the form of censuses, and used to shape public services. In the same way, local and national demographic data on nuisances can help organisations that respond to noise issues target resources and improve outcomes. As well as geographical noise hotspots, it can be useful to help determine whether certain groups are unable to access noise services or those who most frequently use them. Local authorities and social housing providers can, in particular, use the information to act proactively in preventing noise, in planning to prevent noise impacts or in the development of housing policies or strategy.

Analysis of Age and Gender

The following results were found in relation to age groups. There is a dramatic rise in enquiries from those based in the 55-64 year age group; with, broadly speaking, demand for services rising with age (and apparently it is not because older people are more grumpy).

age differences in noise issues
AgePercentage
18-241.8%
25-346.9%
35-447.6%
45-5413.2%
55-6442.5%
65+17.2%
Unknown37.2%

A significantly larger proportion of females requested services over males.

gender differences in noise complaints
GenderPercentage
Male23.1%
Female39.3%
Unknown37.6%

Digital Exclusion and Access to Noise Services

We know that the following groups are more likely to be digitally excluded:

  • Those in social housing
  • The unemployed
  • Older people

We also know that these are the very people who are more likely to be affected by noise pollution. This may explain why our figures show the percentage of those people accessing our services tail off in the 65+ age group; although research has also shown that older people are less likely to complain.

Much of the communication carried out by local enforcement bodies is carried out via email. There have also been amazing innovations like the noise app that help sufferers to tackle noise issues. A key message for public services therefore has to be that, whilst digital services can enhance and empower communities significantly, they must consider how they will support particular groups whose access to the web is restricted.

Read more about our noise research.

Planning for Noise is Child’s Play

Planning for Noisy Children

We regularly receive enquiries citing concerns about childrens’ play areas and noisy children; including outdoor sports areas, playgrounds and, even, nurseries. ‘The sound of from children playing – what could be so terrible about that?’ you may ask. Well, nothing in itself, but if a well-meaning local Councillor decided that a skate-park should be built next to your garden or if you were to be subject to the cries of up to 50 babies and toddlers from the nursery next door all day, you’d be naïve to think that it could not impact in some way on your home life.

Most complaints are initiated by a change in circumstances, a change in land use or, perhaps, the installation of new equipment. The first step in planning any change in land use or development is to ensure that it is located in a suitable location; after which the changes made need to be designed in such a way that minimises the chances of negative impacts to neighbours. It’s orientation, size, capacity and any measures to mitigate noise should be thought about at the design stage; not forgetting  detail about how is to be supervised, staffed or maintained. In many cases the distance between such facilities and noise-sensitive premises has not provided adequate separation. The level of technicality in any noise assessment depends upon the nature and scale of the development.

MUGAs and Noise

Whilst the use of ‘organised’ (often privately run) sports facilities can be limited by times of operation many public access games areas or children’s playgrounds are open throughout the day and, sometimes, at night when crime and anti-social behaviour can be a significant issue. “Multi-use Games Areas” (MUGAs) have been a popular addition alongside new developments or to support areas with high levels of social housing and promote healthy living. However, such facilities present, (sometimes insurmountable) problems associated with noise, opening hours and lighting. Sound barriers, as a last resort, are also often impractical due to security concerns and ease of access. Amongst other considerations distance is key.

Noise from Pubs and Play Areas

There is a growing trend for (sometimes extensive) play equipment to be installed in pub gardens in order to attract families. Any opportunity for increasing sales of food and drink is important in this sector; who often benefit over restaurants by having access to larger outdoor dining areas. Pub companies can sometimes overlook the consequences of installing playgrounds near to neighbouring residential properties; where they can be used every day throughout the summer and often until late into the evening. Many fail to apply for the required planning permission.

Noise and Nurseries

In the 2000’s there was a large increase in the number of private childcare establishments that gained planning permission. The boom in the sector supported a rapidly growing demand for spaces. Unfortunately, some were not well situated; being located, for example, in terraced houses or next to noise sensitive properties. The opportunity for highlighting concerns about noise is at the planning stage when unreasonable changes can be prevented; after which the problem becomes more difficult to control. Unlike schools nurseries tend to operate all year round without the respite provided by holidays. Nurseries also tend to have much smaller outdoor areas that are used at different times by different age-groups of children from anytime up to 6pm.

Careful Planning is Key to Tolerance

It would be easy to suggest that a growth in such complaints is an indication that we are becoming a less tolerant society. Not necessarily. Our population has grown by 10 million in the last few decades; and we are increasingly living in more densely populated spaces. If we are to maintain healthy lifestyles, have sufficient access to childcare facilities and ensure that businesses are able to compete, there will continue to be a demand for such facilities. The above examples demonstrate though, once again, that good planning and design must underpin any proposed change in use.

A Night Out with the Noise Police

A Night Out with the Noise Police

We recently spent a night out with the noise police (or as they are more accurately referred to the “environmental health officers”) on one of their weekend night shifts. We joined them in a predominantly urban local authority area in the south of England (Glasgow have also made account of their own experience). Fewer Councils offer evening and weekend response services due to local authority cuts; a tiny minority work shifts. However, all have to operate some form of service, however limited that may be. You can find your Council service here.

At around 9pm our officer logs on in the office to his PC and does what most office workers do as they start their working day; sips on coffee whilst checking his emails. Unlike many others though, Jeremy has already worked a full week of daytime shifts including today’s, Friday. A handful of officers take turns to operate the weekend “out-of-hours” service alongside their day-jobs; which involve a broader spectrum of responsibilities including pubic health protection, safety inspections and air pollution monitoring.

Amongst the e-mails there are some requests for consultations from the planning department and some licensing applications but these will probably have to wait until next week. It’s the weekend now and, he says, the priority will be responding to call-outs from people suffering from noise. If no calls come in straight away there are some visits listed  for ongoing issues, including problems with a couple of bars. Later on, he explains, there are two late-night takeaways that seem to be the focus of anti-social behaviour in the early hours; “if we get the chance, a drive-by would be useful”.

The phone doesn’t take long to light up. Whilst his colleague takes the details, Jeremy explains that, unless there is a serious noise disturbance or an alarm that’s keeping up the neighbourhood, each call is responded to in turn. “How would you know if it is serious?” I ask. “Many you don’t but if a bunch of calls come in about the same place there’s a good chance its disturbing a lot of people”.

First Shout

Off we go to our first call; one of the officers has been here before. We arrive at a property where the occupant is complaining about noises from upstairs; both flats are tenanted. Before we approach the officer explains how we were to approach the property and instructs me where I should stand once we are inside (next to the exit, which I need to ensure is kept open; where are they taking me I wonder?!). The occupant comes to the front door and the officers insist on him going up the stairs first. The man complains of “humming” noises being made deliberately to antagonise him. He whispers “they are recording everything we say”. Even from the bottom of the stairs the situation seems a little strange. However, the officers give the occupant the respect he deserves and, after five minutes or so, we leave the property. We note that the flat being complained of is in darkness; perhaps the occupants have gone to sleep.

The visit prompts me to ask about the sort of people who they meet. A broad spectrum; it could be anyone, rich or poor. Alcohol and drug issues have always influenced their workload; and they both feel that they encounter more people with mental health issues nowadays than when they started their careers. Their perception is that occupants are encountered more often now in social housing tenancies and wonder whether that is because there is a lack of supported housing. The conversation is cut short by the telephone and off we go to our next visit.

The Noisy Party

A little way into the shift and our sixth telephone call is received; a noisy party. They explain to the complainants that they will intervene and try to resolve the problem. As we arrive it is not hard to see where the party is happening; plenty of people on the street and what must be a pretty big sound system thumping out dance music from a marquee in the back garden. After asking a few guests they contact the occupier who bolts angrily up to the door.


“Who the f***are you?!” and, before the officers can answer, “We told all the neighbours we were having a party and we never have parties”.

“Probably not the ones on the street behind you and the one behind that, which is where we have got complaints from.” The officer waits for a gap in the rebuttal but remains calm. “We are not here to spoil your night. Its 11.30pm so what I would suggest is that you bring the music inside now and bring the level down. In half an hour (at midnight) we then expect the party to take place inside, not outside”.

With some encouragement from his partner the householder reluctantly backs down.
We hang around outside and, to my surprise, the sound level goes down. Jeremy explains that some of the residents often don’t appreciate why having a live band or disco in the back garden might not be such a good idea. The residents of the larger properties, he says, can be just as difficult as any other. These guys have heard it all before: ‘Do you know who I am?’, ‘I pay your wages’, ‘You can’t tell me what to do’, ‘I know my rights’ and, not to mention, the verbal abuse.

Noisy Nightlife

Soon after, at midnight, we are stood in a property overlooking part of the town-centre’s commercial area; where there are a handful of bars and pubs. The person complaining of music noise from the bar across the street. The music is just about audible but not intrusive. Jeremy explains that the noise is not loud enough to constitute a nuisance. The occupant is not happy with the response.

“This is a residential area. Why should we have to hear their music every weekend?!” he says.
“This is town centre and, as such, we can’t expect there to be silence”. Jeremy explains to the occupant that there has to be a bit of give and take but leaves the door open by suggesting that they make other visits.


Noise from music venues has been a hot topic for some time now with some blaming overzealous officials for the trade’s demise but these officers, at least, seem to be keen to strike a balance. “None of the premises have later than a 1am licence and it’s already started to quieten down. We are not here to kill off trade, as long as its not to loud and they are acting reasonably then there is little we should do.”As we travel back through the high street we come to one of the takeaways that they planned monitoring; a popular kebab shop. Inside are a few customers. The officers remark that it is unusually quiet but explain that the drizzle started in the last half hour will probably had an effect on the remainder of the partying this evening, “Noise can be a bit like cricket where rain stops play”. I am picking up a sense of relief.

Back to Treble or Base

No sooner are we at one call-out when another comes through on the mobile phone which results in another visit to the other side of the Borough. During the shift we receive 16 calls. We make 8 visits made and barely enough time to swig back a cup of coffee.

Back at base Jeremy explains that all these calls generate paperwork and need to be entered onto our database along with our investigation notes. “I’ll either do this tomorrow from home or leave it until first thing Monday morning. We can then look at each case and see if any warrant any further action”. He notes that there is also a witness statement to write and information to be forwarded to the local housing association. It is past 4am and time to clock-off. However, Jeremy logs on to his computer to email the officers serving on tomorrow’s shift to warn them about one of the properties we visited and action taken just in case they receive a call tomorrow.

Its been an interesting night with the officers who I found to be a really reasonable pair of guys working under some quite difficult circumstances; and far from being the so-called “party-poopers” one might expect of the “noise police”. We walk outside and, keen to get home to bed, say our goodbyes quickly. Its nearly dawn and I notice that the birds have started to make their own noise.

Guide to Live and Amplified Music

Live Music Noise

There have been a number of locally or nationally focused noise control guidance documents produced over the years concerned with live music noise. Some came about to serve a demand for guidance in the assessment and control of noise from premises such as pubs and clubs. One or two others were intended to provide a guide to the control of noise from events such as those from festivals or concerts. Many now lack the flexibility necessary to address the diverse set of situations and variable characteristics presented by the music and entertainment industries.

Much of the older practice guidance still in place has not kept in step with modern legislation and will, for example, have been published prior to the Licensing Act, Live Music Act and amendments to the Noise Act coming into force. Whilst a lot of the information contained in these guides remains relevant, some content is no longer in line with current thinking on noise control and modern legislative mechanisms in place; including the need to promote cultural experiences and adopt a risk based approach to the regulation of live music.

Local regulators are faced with a wide variety of potential music venues (including pubs and clubs as well as larger venues) being carried out by people with varying degrees of expertise in noise control and acoustics. A simple risk rating system applying to all activities involving amplified or live music would allow the noise risk in that operation or proposal to be quantified quickly and easily. By identifying the level of risk associated with the operation, if necessary, appropriate noise control measures may then be drawn up and implemented. Thankfully, this guide provides such a solution.

Aimed at operators and local authority enforcement officers, this guide provides a risk based guide to the control of live and amplified music.

Get Your Copy Now

It may be used as a starting point when considering live music proposals and the necessity for noise controls.

It is suitable for music operators, pubs, clubs, events organisers, environmental health officers, licensing officers and licensing solicitors.

Noise at Night-time

Out of Office Hours – Noise at Night-time

Many people who come to us for help suffer from noise at night-time; be it due to the noisy neighbour, misfiring intruder alarm or noisy pub. As such, many noise issues don’t fit into the 9 to 5 office hours pattern that public services tend to keep.

Unlike the emergency services, and some health and social services teams, local government and housing associations are generally most active in the day-time. There are some Councils who field 24 hour response teams, generally larger city areas, and some who provide weekend noise services. However, at a time when resources have diminished the number of Councils able to provide permanent services during the evenings, nights and weekends are a minority. That is not to say that all local authorities should be expected to field a 24 hour service for noise; this would clearly be beyond the need or capability of many.


So what should they be doing and what level of service would be deemed acceptable?


The law is clear. Local authorities have a duty to investigate allegations of statutory nuisance that are put to them. Whilst they do not always have to witness the noise directly themselves (in the flesh) it is recommended that they do so in order to secure the strength of their evidence (after all, the enforcement action they take may always be appealed). There are ways to respond to noise cases though and prioritise problems that are perceived as “higher risk” (more likely to be a problem). In our tutorial (see our Resources) we explain how you get categorised as being in the high risk bracket and how you can get the investigating officer focused on your noise complaint.

Without a dedicated out-of-hours service to witness noise at night-time the way the investigators will respond to individuals will depend upon differing circumstances. Smaller teams (generally made up of a handful of officers with other responsibilities) may organise themselves in a variety of ways, including:

  • Weekly on-call rotas for priority cases;
  • Weekend noise call-out service (focused on the busy Friday and Saturday nights);
  • Summer services;
  • A series of planned visits for priority cases; and
  • Organised visits to monitor ongoing problems (such as with commercial noise).

If you are unhappy with the service provided by your local authority and feel that they can take, or could have taken, action to help we have some more detailed guidance in our member service. Find out more about what times noise may be deemed unacceptable.