The Noise Act
The Noise Act 1996 (as amended) gives powers to local authorities allowing them to issue fixed penalty notices as an alternative to prosecution for a Noise Act offence. The offence under section 4 of the Noise Act is caused by a perpetrator exceeding the permitted noise level after a warning notice has been served.
A fixed penalty notice provides a person with the opportunity to discharge liability to conviction by payment of the prescribed amount within 14 days. Payment within this time period will avoid court proceedings. The fixed penalty for night noise from domestic premises can be set locally or defaults to £100. The fixed penalty for night noise from licensed premises is set at £500.
The permitted level applies during night-time hours which are specified as being between the hours of 11pm and 7am.
As the statutory nuisance provisions tend to be used for ongoing noise issues, where a “state of affairs” can be shown to exist over time, the Noise Act was brought in as a way of tackling one-off noise events – primarily involving loud music.
Amendments, made under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 made two important changes. Firstly, it updated the permitted noise level contained in the enactment; and, secondly, it brought licensed premises under the scope of the legislation.
Is it Any Use to Me?
In some city areas the tool provides a useful compliment to their night-time routine, especially for loud music issues. Generally speaking though, it is rare for fixed-penalty notices to be issued in practice as enforcers favour the statutory nuisance mechanisms. In practice employing the procedures can be cumbersome and, ultimately, requires some monitoring to take place. There is also no requirement for enforcers to apply the procedures.
It is not all negative though the warning notice can be a useful way of letting perpetrators know that they are causing disturbance and the threat of action can act as a deterrent. Having said that, some enforcers prefer not to issue hollow threats that may undermine their authority if not acted upon.
Section 8B of the 1996 Act, inserted by section 82(2) of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, a local authority may require a person to whom an authorised officer proposes to give a fixed penalty notice to give the officer his or her name and address. This may also be useful to officers visiting perpetrators. There are also powers to seize equipment.
The Permitted Level
Set at 34 dB(A) if the underlying level of noise is no more than 24 dB(A) or 10 dB(A)above the underlying level of noise where this exceeds 24 dB(A). Measurement must take place for a period of at least 5 minutes, but could be longer should the officer consider it necessary and/or reasonable to do so but must be determined within 15 minutes.