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Nuisance caused by noise, smoke and rubbish

Noise is a fact of everyday life; however, we are all entitled to expect that the activities of others do not interfere unreasonably with our private lives. This includes freedom from the intrusion of other people's noise.

Noise complaints that we deal with can arise from various sources:

  • Household noise (e.g. loud music or barking dogs but NOT domestic arguments or verbal abuse which should be reported to the Police).
  • Commercial or industrial premises (pubs, clubs, factories).
  • Noisy equipment (alarms, ventilation fans, refrigeration units, audible bird scarers).
  • Outdoor events.
  • Vehicles (car alarms, ice cream chimes).
  • Construction work (from DIY to major projects).
Odours and smells Smoke, dust and fumes Rubbish on private land

In many cases, the person/s causing the noise may not be aware that they are causing a problem, and all that is required is a polite request for some action to be taken to resolve the issue in a friendly way. Don't take any risks - such an approach can sometimes produce a hostile response. Please contact us if you don't feel able to deal with the problem yourself, or if you have tried and it hasn't worked.

If you have a complaint which concerns a nuisance noise, or odour which happens regularly enough to cause significant disturbance to you, you will be asked to complete a complaint record form. Please complete and return this by post or email (the details for which are listed on the form). Please ensure that you provide detailed records concerning the problem, and how it affects you.

Records which state that a nuisance occurs ‘all day, every day’ will be taken in court to mean exactly that, and therefore you should ensure that you record accurate dates and times as this forms a vital piece of evidence. 

Please note that we are unable to investigate anonymous complaints and you must ensure you include the address of where the noise is originating from.

We will try to find a solution, without legal action if possible, and can act quickly in severe cases. If we are unable to help you, we will advise you who can.

Statutory nuisance

There is no set definition but case law has defined a statutory nuisance as a “material interference with the comfort and enjoyment of another’s home.”

In practice, to be a statutory nuisance, the noise would have to be excessive and unreasonable in the circumstances and significantly interfere with the use and enjoyment of someone’s home. Examples could be: disturbance of sleep, forcing you to close your windows, preventing you from using your garden, due to the level, time, frequency and duration of the noise.

No, there is no fixed noise level, time of day, frequency or duration defined in law. These are, however, taken into consideration in any investigation. The council can only take formal action if it is satisfied that the noise is causing a statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

We investigate complaints under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, to determine whether the noise is causing a statutory nuisance. Standard letters are usually sent to both parties, and the complainant is required to complete diary sheets to record when the noise occurs. Thereafter, visits may be made by officers to determine whether or not a Statutory Nuisance is occurring. We would try to offer advice and assistance to the person who is alleged to be causing the noise of measures that could be taken to minimise the noise.

If the council is satisfied that the noise is causing a statutory nuisance, a notice can be served which can stop the activity occurring.

What if I don’t want to make a formal complaint?

Many situations can be resolved on informal basis, perhaps by speaking with your neighbour to discuss your concerns and trying to reach an agreement. Environmental Services are unable to investigate anonymous complaints under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. However, there are options for any individual to take a private action under the same act without any involvement by the council:

  1. Under section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, any person may make a complaint directly to the Magistrates’ Court on the grounds that they are aggrieved by a statutory nuisance.
  2. You may take your own legal action for an injunction or damages in respect of private nuisance. Public Health and Housing would advise contacting a solicitor regarding private action. Please note that you would be responsible for any costs incurred by this course of action.

Who else is concerned with controlling noise?

Out of hours service

During the summer season we provide an out of hours service which enables you to report a problem to the officers on duty so they can attend if possible and witness it. This service is available at weekends only from the beginning of May to the end of September on Friday and Saturday nights.

Restrictions on mass balloon and sky lantern releases

A ban on mass balloon releases, and a ban on the release of any sky lanterns whatsoever, is included within the terms for leasing council land for all events:

We encourage landowners, parish and town councils and event organisers to consider doing the same.

Construction noise

It is accepted that undertaking construction work can create noise and even though it is temporary, it can still be a nuisance to people living or working nearby.

During demolition or construction we understand that some noise will be inevitable, but it should be kept to a reasonable minimum. Where problems are identified, we can investigate and advise on, or enforce, solutions. 

We recommend that the following hours are adhered to for any noisy construction or demolition works:

Day of the weekTime of work

Monday to Friday  

07:30 - 18:00

Saturday

08:00 - 13:00

Sunday and Bank Holidays  

No noisy working normally permitted

These times may be varied for emergency situations or in certain circumstances where works may only be undertaken outside of normal operational hours, such as: coastal works to coincide with tidal patterns; highway resurfacing; bridge repairs; and railway engineering. In these situations we would expect to be notified of the type and duration of work.

If you are affected by demolition or construction site noise, or you are a construction company wishing to apply for prior consent, please contact us.

Audible bird scarers

The use of audible bird scarers is not illegal. They are deemed essential in protecting certain crops. Other types of audible device, replicating the distress calls of species which cause particular problems for residents and businesses are sometimes used in urban areas. If a farmer or landowner is using such devices, they must ensure that they are not causing a nuisance to others. In the case of devices used in agricultural settings, they must be used in accordance with the code of practice produced by the National Farmers Union (NFU). The code of practice has been designed to provide advice and guidance to farmers and landowners on how to use bird scaring devices in an appropriate manner, minimising the disturbance.

As a general guide bird scarers should:

  • only be used where justified
  • not sound more than four times an hour
  • not be used before sunrise or after sunset (this doesn’t mean that scarers used after sunrise in the Summer are automatically acceptable)
  • be positioned carefully to ensure that they are not pointing towards or too close to residential properties in the locality