A Summary of the Main Legislation
The following provides a brief summary of the main noise related legislation invoked in relation to neighbourhood noise issues.
This is the staple “go-to” legislation for noise enforcers and is enforced by the local authority who have a duty to investigate allegations under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. It covers:
(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.
The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Disorder Act 2014 provides a range of powers to authorities, including police and local authorities, to deal with anti-social noise. They also include powers to some housing associations that allow for injunctions to be placed on persons engaging in anti-social behaviour. Community protection notices may be served on an individual or a body if their conduct is having a detrimental effect, is persistent in nature and is unreasonable. Breach of a CPN may involve a spot-fine procedure.
The ASB powers are generally used where statutory nuisance powers are not able to be applied to cases that involve unreasonable behaviour.
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 guilty of an offence. A fixed penalty procedure is available as an alternative to prosecution.
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.
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. This legislation is used in preference to statutory nuisance legislation.
The Licensing Act 2003 allows local authorities, police and residents to make representations against proposed licence applications or variations and, in that sense, may allow interested parties to stop noise before it happens or reduce it’s impact on communities. It applies to premises and clubs that sell alcohol or offer specific types of entertainment.
The legislation also allows interested parties or responsible authorities to apply for a licence (or terms of a licence) to be reviewed where they feel that it’s use involves crime, disorder or public nuisance.
Housing Health and Safety Rating Scheme
HHSRS is most likely to be invoked in the case of serious intrusion associated with poor insulation or transport noise (it is not used to tackle neighbour noise issues that are associated with unreasonable behaviour or nuisances).
Housing Health and Safety Rating Scheme Regulations 2005 are applied in order to determine the level of risk associated with the noise. Once the deficiency is identified the risk of harm is assessed, scored, rated and classed in order to determine whether enforcement action can be taken against a landlord.
Noise impact is a key consideration when new developments apply for planning permission. Impact on the acoustic environment may be considered alongside other concerns in order to determine whether a development may involve a significant adverse effect and whether a good standard of amenity can be achieved through the proposal.
Planning enforcement is also possible in some circumstances where the correct permissions have not been sought for a particular land use or if it’s use falls outside the scope of the permission granted.
Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 enables magistrates (or a sheriff) 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.