Noise from Fireworks

Noise from Fireworks at Night

Fireworks regulations restrict the level of noise from fireworks to 120dB. Trading Standards officers will check this limit through the manufacturers. The larger more powerful display fireworks are only allowed to be possessed by professionals; whereas it is an offence for anyone under the age of 18 to be sold or possess any fireworks. Anyone caught throwing fireworks in the street can be fined under the Explosives Act 1875; which is enforced by the Police.

The Fireworks Regulations 2004 limit the use of fireworks at night in England and Wales (which is set as between the hours of 11pm and 7am). There are exceptions to this rule which include the following times:

  • Until 1am following the first day of Chinese New Year.
  • Until midnight on the 5th of November.
  • Until 1am on the day following Diwali.
  • Until 1am on the day following the 31st of December.

The time limits imposed by the Fireworks Regulations are enforced by the Police rather than by the local authority. You can contact the Police using the 101 number for non-emergency calls. If they are unable to attend on the night they may be able to follow up your inquiry through a neighbourhood officer retrospectively.

In most cases statutory nuisance procedures will not be able to be used to tackle firework noise as, in most cases, the activity is transient and is carried out before the permitted hours. However, where commercial venues (particularly those carrying out functions) regularly set off fireworks they are more likely to fall within the scope of statutory nuisance (and sometimes licensing rules). The officer will take into account how regularly they cause disturbance. If they are a licensed premises or club they may also be subject to conditions and a limit could be placed on the number of displays taking place.

Noise – Section 82 – Update

Taking Your Own Action – The Statistics

Statistics from the Ministry of Justice were previously obtained by relating to statutory nuisance prosecutions. Some of the figures stood out, particularly in relation to the use of s.82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. (Section 82 provides for persons aggrieved by a nuisance to apply for a noise abatement order directly to a magistrate’s court).

Over the period from 2000-2010 the number proceeded against by the local authority for contravening an abatement notice under s.80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 remained fairly constant at around 800 per annum. In those cases the conviction rate (i.e. those found guilty) was consistently around the 75% mark.

Unlike s.80 (local authority action) the number proceeded against for contravention of an order made under s.82 (persons aggrieved) has fallen steadily over the last decade. In 2000 nearly 600 were proceeded against in the courts. By the year 2010 this figure had dropped below 100. In addition, the conviction rates for offences under s.82 were considerably lower than for s.80; being consistently under 20% (and reaching as low as 4%).

The chance of success with s.82 might therefore be seen the most obvious explanation for why its use has declined over the years since its introduction. However, the provision’s apparent lack of attraction to aggrieved persons might also be influenced by a number of other contributing factors, including:

  • The person aggrieved not being familiar with the process of following strict legal procedures (such as the service of documents).
  • The person aggrieved not being comfortable representing themselves in court they may find the costs of instructing a solicitor are prohibitive.
  • The prospect of being held liable for the costs (which may be considerable) of the other party and well as their own.
  • Proceedings are criminal, requiring the higher standard of proof (as opposed to procedures relating to abatement notices which are civil).

The local authority draws benefits from an understanding of statutory nuisance law and legal procedures whereas, a lack of such knowledge, can easily lead to failure on relatively simple matters. The investigating officer may also have considerable technical knowledge and access to specialist equipment or acoustic expertise. Furthermore, in most courts, the opinion of a qualified and experienced local authority environmental health officer is valued and he may be recognised as an expert in his own right.

A comparison of Ministry of Justice statistics to figures gathered by the CIEH confirm that the vast majority of statutory nuisance proceedings relate to noise. Throughout the 1990’s Section 82, was most commonly applied to housing matters; principally by persons aggrieved seeking improvement to living conditions. Case law now prevents such an application in relation to matters presenting themselves purely as physical hazards (providing further explanation for the reduction in s.82 over the previous decade). However, s.82 may be applied in a range of other circumstances and so the number of s.82 convictions in relation to noise nuisances is likely to significantly lower than the 36 registered in England & Wales in 2010.

CIEH statistics show that hundreds of thousands of noise nuisance issues are subject to local authority interventions; with most cases being settled informally by officers before resorting to legal proceedings. This fact, coupled with the uptake and enforcement success rate, may help confirm the effectiveness of s.80 as a noise control provision. Conversely, the opposite is clearly demonstrated in relation to s.82.

The statutory duties placed on local authorities (to investigate complaints and to serve notices) may be fundamental to the effectiveness of s.80. The suggestion that private practitioners are able to provide more effective investigation and abatement services to aggrieved parties is exaggerated. They would be subject to some of the same barriers presented by private action by individuals and provide additional costs. If anything can be taken from these latest statistics it is that it is even more important now that the statutory duties placed on local authorities (requiring them to investigate complaints and serve notices) are maintained and that noise investigation services are funded adequately. By doing so those affected by noise may be assured that access to justice will be maintained for all.

Since this article was first written we have undertaken our own comprehensive research into noise nuisance issues in the UK. Our data is far more comprehensive and reliable.

Noise from Sexual Activity

Complaints of this nature are more common than you might think.

Regularity will pose more of an annoyance factor; particularly if plenty of stamina is involved. Time of day also increases the likelyhood for such activity to be more intrusive – as this tends to be more of a late night activity any screaming, moaning, wall banging or other associated noise (use your imagination!) can easily interfere with sleep.

If your neighbour is particularly noisy in the bedroom department you might want to say something to let them know that it is waking you up. A well-timed hint or comment (for example, relating to the level of sound-proofing) might be enough. However, you may have to be a bit more direct though if the problem persists. If you do approach the neighbour remember to be discreet an try to minimise the chances of embarrassment.

Sometimes neighbours don’t realise that they may only be a few feet away from each other when lying in their own beds. From a practical point of view, and in the short-term, changing the position of beds (away from the adjoining wall) may help in some circumstances.

Where the problem is very regular or unusually loud (and where the informal appraoch is unsuccesful) statutory nuisance powers may be used. Environmental health officers also have sound recording equipment they can lend you as arriving on time to witness the noise can be a little difficult!

In some cases the sex noise may be due to ‘business’ transactions (prostitution). Premises used for this purposes may be dealt with using anti-social behaviour powers.

Aircraft Noise

Most aircraft noise is exempt from the statutory nuisance regime and aviation policy and regulation is largely controlled by the UK Government (princially through the Civil Aviation Authority). You can still register a complaint with your local authority though as this will help them measure trends in interest and concern.

Some local authorities have taken legal action to prevent expansion or reduce number of flights (usually by way of injunction).

Aircraft noise from the aircraft themselves has reduced over the years as technological advancements in aerodynamics and engine design have advanced. However, the number of international flights has boomed alongside globalisation.

Military aviation is controlled by the Ministry of Defence who can be contacted through the MoD Complaints and Enquiries Unit.

Further information on civil aviation can be found on the CAA site here.

Other useful websites are and .

Noisy Pub or Club

How to deal with a Noisy Pub or Club

Whether it is live music, recorded music or patron noise the noisy pub or club can be a common cause for concern (particularly in mixed commercial/residential areas). In recent years enforcement officers and complainants have been blamed for the closure of some pubs and clubs (and for the reduction in live music). However, the significant financial pressures placed on publicans and decrease in popularity for night-time venues poses much more of a threat to the industry than an occasional noise complaint. Another issue raised in recent years has been the increase in the development of residential property in commercial areas near to potential sources of noise pollution. Land use planning and responsible development are key areas for the local authority and property developers; and both noise and air pollution need to be primary concerns.

If you are experiencing problems with a noisy operator nearby there are measures that can be taken to minimise disturbance. Powers exist to require nuisances to be abated (or restricted) and sound levels can be monitored. It is important that, when considering whether the person (or company) making the noise is being unreasonable, that a balance of interests is struck between the operator and his neighbours. Noisy trade after 11pm will more likely to be considered unreasonable, particularly if it interferes with sleep.

The principle mechanism used by enforcers to investigate and initiate changes is the abatement procedure for statutory nuisance.

Licensing Rules and Noise

Businesses or clubs covered by the Licensing Act 2003 (those offering alcohol and/or entertainment) are required to promote specific licensing objectives; one of which refers to the prevention of public nuisance. Generally speaking public nuisance is regarded as something that affects a whole community so if the noise affects just one household it may not be something that at be dealt with using licensing powers.

The licensing process involves the operator applying for permission to operate within certain parameters from the local Licensing Authority. Before doing so they outline how they intend to promote the prevention of public nuisance in the form of an operating schedule. This will detail their proposed activities and at what times they intend carrying them out. Interested parties (generally anyone likely to be affected by the proposal) may object (or “make a representation”). Responsible Authorities such as Environmental Health may also make a representation.

Where representations are made the licensing committee holds a hearing to determine the application. If representations are not made the application is granted as applied for.

Interested parties and Responsible Authorities may also “call for a review” of an existing premises licence if one of the objectives of the Licensing Act 2003 are not being met (for example, if there are significant problems due to a noisy pub or club). Again a hearing is held to determine the validity of the case put by the objector. The Committee have a wide range of powers to change, remove or revoke licensing permissions.

Decisions at all hearings should be made on the basis of evidence. Any frivolous, vexatious or repetitious representations (or reviews) should be rejected by the Licensing Authority. Sufficient evidence will be required to substantiate a review.

If you are considering calling for a review because of noise pollution you can contact us for advice before doing so.

Do you have a noise issue?

Not happy with the service you’ve received?

The Council Won’t Deal with My Noise Complaint

If you are unhappy with the service provided by your local authority and feel that they can take, or could of taken, action to help you can make a complaint or ask them to reconsider.

If you would like the case reviewed or would like a fuller explanation you can go to the head of service or team manager and request that an explanation be provided to you in writing.

Alternatively you can make a formal complaint to your Council about the standard of service you have received. They usually have a two or three step complaints process where complaints are escalated if you are unhappy with the first response given.

If you are still not satisfied with the response you may complain directly to the Local Authority Ombudsman. They will take an independent review of your case. LGO produces some useful information that outlines your rights. However, they will expect you to have followed the Council’s complaints procedure first.

Taking your own action

Noisy Neighbours Law – Going it Alone

Whilst we would always advise using your local authority service before resorting to taking your own action against the perpetrator of the noise, there are other options available to you. Included in the range of noisy neighbours law is the “section 82” option. Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 can be viewed here.

We recommend you try to resolve problems informally before taking formal action yourself and explore other possibilities. For example by taking up the issue with your neighbours landlord. Landlords like housing authorities and associations have a responsibility to help protect you against issues arising from their property that affect you in your home.

If the noise is associated with licensed premises (for example those selling alcohol or offering entertainment) you or the licensing officer can talk to operators and help solve problems. In most areas of the UK you can also apply for the licence to be reviewed if there are public nuisance issues. Successful reviews may help reduce noise through the reduction of permitted operating hours.

Taking Your Own Action

If informal methods do not work, in most areas of the UK, you can also take your own statutory nuisance action against perpetrators of noise (using pretty much the same legislation as the local authority). This is referred to as section 82 action and involves the aggrieved party making a complaint direct to the magistrate’s court.

You don’t need a solicitor to do this and need not cost much. However, there are risks involved when taking your own action so you may wish to seek legal advice.

If you do take your own action you should prepare your case carefully, gather plenty of evidence and follow legal procedures very carefully. As always with statutory nuisance the quality and quantity of your evidence will be the key to your success.

There are some important steps that should be followed if you wish to take your own action including providing a written warning to your neighbour so, if you are going to go down this route,  you will benefit from some further guidance. We have some more information on this subject in our Resources.

Other private action are possibilities in some circumstances such as seeking a civil claim for damages or an injunction. There is also mediation. However, we strongly advise that you read the additional information in our Resources as that will help inform you and prepare you for taking your own action. Our membership sections provide a full explanation of noisy neighbours law and how you can get the matter investigated properly before taking your own action.

Is mediation a possibility?

Noise and Mediation

You may wish to consider talking through your differences with your neighbour and coming to an amicable solution to the problem. You should always approach your neighbours in a calm and constructive way; and avoid conflict. If you are not in a position to talk directly to your neighbour or if relations have broken down you could consider mediation as an alternative.

Mediation is a way of resolving disputes between two or more parties where a neutral third party, the mediator, assists the parties to negotiate some form of a settlement or agreement.

Trained mediators will be available in most areas but not all services are free. Even so, mediation can produce positive or beneficial results much more cheaply and efficiently than taking legal action. A search facility for civil mediation providers in your area can be found on the Civil Mediation Council website. The directory provides details of providers who are accredited by the Civil Mediation Council. Costs through this service can be as little as £50 for a one hour session.

More information on mediation can be found on our Resources or from Citizens Advice. Find out what else you can do to help yourself.

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Noise Complaint Investgation Process

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.

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Permitted noise levels

Maximum Permitted Noise Level

Contrary to popular belief there is no maximum permitted noise level that needs to be exceeded for noise to be categorised as a ‘nuisance’. Statutory nuisance legislation is routinely implemented and enforced by local authorities. Investigating officers will sometimes use sound level meters to help them assess nuisance but for most cases this sort of evidence is unnecessary and they will rely upon their experience and opinion. There are so many variables involved with noise disturbance issues that prevent a general acoustic limit being set.

How loud the noise is will be a crucial factor that must be taken into account by the investigating officer. He will make a determination based upon whether the level is reasonable bearing in mind the other variable factors involved in the circumstances (e.g. time of day and nature/character of the area you live in). Sometimes even very low level sound can be categorised as a nuisance, for example, if it is particularly irritating or causes loss of sleep.

Night-time Noise

However, separate legal provisions relating to night-time noise do provide powers to local authorities that enable officers to issue fixed penalty notices where noise exceeds a specified decibel limit (sound levels that exceed the background level by a set threshold) . The procedure involves a warning notice first and applies between the hours of 11pm and 7am. The warning letter can be served without actually measuring the sound but a breach of the warning must be confirmed by measuring the sound in a neighbouring property. There are different levels of fine applying to licensed premises (e.g. pubs and clubs) to residential domestic offenders.

Due to a number of difficulties in its application and use the ‘night-time noise’ provision is rarely used in practice though. In addition, because of limited local authority resources, many local authorities may not provide a night time response service by which to enforce the provisions.

In Scotland permitted decibel limits also apply to the daytime and evening hours (where the local authority have chosen to adopt the provisions).

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