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Noise Nuisance FAQ's
How Stratford on Avon District Council can help you
The Council has a legal duty to advise and assist local people on noise nuisance issues. Noise from neighbours can be a serious problem, whether it is caused by loud music, barking dogs, DIY or intruder alarms. Business and industry can also be a source of disturbance. For example, late night deliveries, workshop activities and noise from ventilation systems are common causes of complaints. If the noise is bad enough to prevent relaxation or deny sleep, the long-term effect can be damaging to the health and well-being of the person at the receiving end.
This page aims to provide you with information about our procedures and services to investigate noise complaints.
Problems with noisy neighbours?
If your neighbour's noise is disturbing you, an important but often overlooked method of dealing with the problem is to talk to your neighbour politely and discuss it with them. We try to urge all complainants who contact us to try to resolve the problem informally with their neighbour first. However, we find that many people are unable to do this, either because previous informal attempts have failed or because they are worried about violence or intimidation - especially where alcohol or drug use is suspected.
If you cannot resolve the noise problem easily with your neighbour, please speak to the Environmental Protection Team. Your name and address will be kept completely confidential (unfortunately, we are not normally able to respond to anonymous complaints). You can contact us by telephoning 01789 267575; writing to us at Environmental Protection, Stratford on Avon District Council, Elizabeth House, Church Street, Stratford upon Avon, Warks CV37 6HX; by faxing the details to us on 01789 260808; completing an online report form; or by e-mailing us at email@example.com. You can also download and complete noise log sheets on the right hand side of this page and return them to us, with a brief covering letter, to the address above. Please ensure you include full addresses and telephone numbers.
What about noise from shouting, swearing and other offensive behaviour?
This should be referred to the Anti-Social Behaviour Officer in the first instance - this is something we do not deal with. On contacting the Council, please ask to Speak to the Anti Social Behaviour Team.
What constitutes a statutory nuisance?
The most commonly used law relating to noise nuisance (Section 79 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 - see 'further information' at the end of the document), does not define precisely what is or is not a nuisance, i.e. it does not specify noise levels in decibels or set time limits for making a noise. Instead, the concept of nuisance depends on:
- how often the noise occurs,
- how loud it is,
- the time of day / night,
- the nature of the area (i.e. rural, residential, city centre etc) and;
- whether or not the sound has a particularly irritating characteristic (for example a high pitch whine from a factory).
Essentially if the problem is severe enough to be prejudicial to health or it stops you from enjoying a normal routine (e.g. prevents you from watching TV, stops you sleeping, or you are unable to open your windows) then it is likely to be a nuisance in law. (NB: Unfortunately traffic noise cannot be considered a statutory nuisance).
How will my noise complaint be dealt with?
Once we have received your request for advice or action, our quality target is to reply to you within five working days. However, if the noise is of an especially urgent nature, i.e. a car or intruder alarm sounding, we will get back to you as soon as possible.
Staff from the contact centre will take your details – it is important that you provide as much information as possible, particularly addresses, telephone numbers and where appropriate email addresses. They will send you a covering letter and some log sheets for you to complete and return. It is important that these are completed accurately as you may be required to substantiate the contents in Court. Environmental Protection officers will be informed of your complaint and may make contact with the person you're complaining about, depending on the nature of the complaint and prevailing workload. When/if your log sheets are returned they will be assessed by Environmental Protection officers, who will advise you if the evidence supports your allegation of statutory nuisance. If it does, you will be contacted about how your complaint will be progressed. It will either be by visit(s) to witness the nuisance ourselves, or by installing noise monitoring equipment. This will either support your allegation or not. We will make two visits or install monitoring equipment twice to investigate your complaint – if we don't establish nuisance you will be advised that we will take no further action and you will be advised to consider taking your own action under S82 of the Environmental Protection Act. If we do consider that a nuisance exists or is likely to occur or recur, we will serve an abatement notice. However, before this, we will write a formal warning letter stating that if the noise continues, a notice will be served. The person receiving the notice can appeal to the Magistrates' Court. Failing to comply with a notice is an offence for which we can prosecute.
In the vast majority of complaints that we handle, a simple informal letter is enough to prompt people to consider the noise they make and how it affects others and resolves the problem.
However, in some cases we may suggest that the most appropriate first action might be to involve a local Mediation Service. All contact is confidential and they can be contacted for general advice or more involved assistance on 02476 496748, Mon - Fri 9-5pm or you can e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org
What is an Abatement Notice?
According to the Environmental Protection Act 1990, once a local authority is satisfied that a noise nuisance is occurring or likely to occur, it must serve an 'Abatement Notice' on the person responsible for the noise or the occupier of the premises where the noise is originating. An abatement notice is a legal document that requires the person on whom the notice is served to stop the nuisance or restrict its occurrence or recurrence (i.e. to certain hours of the day) or it can require works to be carried out. Typical wording might include 'cease or cause to cease the playing of recorded or live music in such a manner that a nuisance is caused and ensure that the use of the premises for any purpose does not cause noise amounting to a nuisance'.
On receipt, your neighbour has the right to appeal against the Notice in the Magistrates Court, providing this is done within twenty-one days of the date of service. If they win their appeal, then the Magistrates may vary the requirements of the Notice or withdraw it completely and may award costs to the appellant (i.e. against the Council). If the appeal is not upheld by the magistrates, the Notice will remain in force and the Council may be awarded costs.
What happens if the abatement notice is ignored?
Breaching an Abatement Notice is a criminal offence, so if your neighbour carried on making the noise we would need to witness it in just the same way as described above. If we obtain evidence that a Notice has been contravened we would look to our departmental enforcement policy to decide whether prosecution should be initiated. Senior managers would be involved in this decision. The outcome of a breach could be either a written warning, a recommendation for a formal caution, or a prosecution in the Magistrates Court. If your neighbour was to be found guilty by the Magistrates he or she may be liable to a fine of up to £5000 (or up to £20,000 if it is a business that is causing the nuisance), for each breach of the Notice.
In rare cases, if the person causing the noise rents the property in which they live, we may be able to serve a Notice on the landlord, as well as or instead of the person causing the noise. If the person causing the noise is a Housing Association tenant then the association will be able to initiate possession proceedings against them on the basis of our evidence.
Can I complain anonymously?
No. We cannot accept anonymous complaints as they cannot be effectively dealt with.
Will my neighbour know who's complained?
We will not divulge those details. However, if we get to the stage of either defending an appeal against a notice, or prosecuting for breach of a notice we will probably need you to appear as a witness. This will not happen without your express agreement. In essence, you will need to weigh up in your own mind whether the nuisance you're experiencing is bad enough to justify risking upsetting your neighbour.
What can I do if my neighbour makes unsubstantiated complaints about me?
Firstly, we would only take formal legal action where we are satisfied that nuisance exists or is likely to occur or recur. We would not take this sort of action without our own investigation. If you are the recipient of a number of complaints you should contact a solicitor or the Citizens Advice Bureau, or speak to the Police if you feel you are being harassed. Please bear in mind that we are obliged to investigate all complaints, and we cannot stop people complaining about you.
Seizing stereo equipment and other goods
If we have served an Abatement Notice and have strong evidence that the recipient has breached the notice and will probably do so again, the Council may apply to the Magistrates for a warrant to gain entry to your neighbour's property to seize any equipment or articles used to cause a noise nuisance. This includes stereo equipment, speakers, musical instruments and even compact discs.
We are then able to hold the equipment in store for twenty-eight days. At the end of this period the owner can apply to have it back, on payment of the costs incurred by the Council when carrying out the seizure and for storage. However, if during the twenty-eight day period the Council initiates a prosecution, the equipment is retained until the Court hearing. If the defendant is found guilty, it is the Magistrates who will decide what happens to any seized articles. Frequently they are permanently confiscated.
What happens if the Council is unable to gather any evidence of a nuisance or decides that the noise does not amount to a nuisance?
The Environmental Protection Act 1990 (section 82) allows you to take your own action by complaining directly to the Magistrates' Court. You are advised to take legal advice before commencing this course of action. You would have to produce evidence to satisfy the Magistrates that the noise problem amounts to a nuisance, in just the same way that the Council must when it takes legal action. You must give the person responsible for the noise at least three days written notice of your intention to complain to the court and the nature of the complaint. Please see our 'Letter Templates' link on the Noise Homepage if you feel you would like help in writing this letter. Letter number 2 is a suitable template you may use for this purpose. You should deliver this letter by post or by hand, ensuring that it is dated and that you have kept a copy for your own records.
When you then contact the court, you will need to tell them that you wish to make a complaint under section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. It is more than likely that this would be done in person, at the Magistrates' Court, by speaking to a Clerk of the Court. The full procedure would be explained to you at this stage and you may be asked to demonstrate that you have evidence of the problem. You should also inform the court whether or not you have contacted the environmental protection team about the problem.
The court will then make a decision as to whether a summons should be issued, and you may be asked to serve this on the person responsible for the noise. The summons will state the allotted date and time for the hearing. At the hearing, both sides will be able to give evidence, call witnesses and have legal representation. If the court decides that you are suffering a noise nuisance it will make an order which will require that the person stops causing the noise and any measures or work that will have to be carried out to achieve this.
The order may also prohibit the recurrence of the noise. You would usually be awarded your costs in bringing the case. If your neighbour then breached the Court order he or she will be found guilty of an offence and may be fined. Alternatively, if the case is dismissed, you will have to pay your costs and you may also have to pay the costs of your neighbour.
Where can I get further information?
More information about neighbour noise can be obtained from the following:
- Environmental Protection UK, 44 Grand Parade, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 9QA
- The Department For Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Zone 4/G10, Ashdown House, 123 Victoria Street, London SW1E 6DE. (Website only, however we can provide copies if required).
- The full text of the key law relating to neighbour nuisance (Section 79 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990) is available online from HMSO. (We can provide copies of this text if you do not have access to the internet).
- Noise Abatement Society
- Independent Mediation Service
For further information please contact the Environmental Protection team on 01789 267575, or by emailing email@example.com