We live in a noisy society, but what is acceptable to one person might be unbearable to others, and noise can be pollution just as much as smoke or chemicals.
According to the Environmental Protection Act 1990, noise from premises can constitute a statutory noise nuisance if it disturbs local residents and prevents people from enjoying their homes.
The following is a list of the types of noise issues that we have legal powers to investigate:
- television and stereo noise
- DIY noise
- car repairs
- barking dogs
- burglar alarms and car alarms
- noise from licensed premises
- noise from construction sites
- factories and industrial premises
- loudspeakers in the street
- takeaways and other businesses
- noise from cockerels and other domestic fowl
What we cannot do
The council can't take legal action for noise issues based solely on complaints; for legal action to take place, the noise must be witnessed by one of our qualified officers.
Chesterfield can be a noisy place and not all noise will be determined as ‘illegal’ or causing a statutory nuisance. For a noise to be a statutory nuisance it must have a material harmful impact on the normal, reasonable use of the premises; it is not enough that the noise is just annoying or irritating to an individual. The law doesn't give an absolute right to peace and quiet.
There are some sources of noise which we do not have statutory powers or duties to investigate:
- Civil or military aviation including helicopters - you can report issues to the Civil Aviation Authority.
- Noise from traffic on public highways.
- Noise from the railway network - you can report issues to Network Rail.
- Noise from emergency vehicles.
- Noise from people in the street, or from loud speakers used as part of a political demonstration.
- Some everyday activities, such as children playing in their garden, noise from a washing machine, noise from a vacuum cleaner (unless the activity is occurring at an unusual time such as the early hours of the morning).
- Noise from utility companies (gas, water, electric) and telecommunication work (telephones, cable tv).
Find out more on our statutory nuisance page.
What you can do yourself
If you are being unreasonably disturbed by noise from your neighbours, you may initially consider making a tactful approach to your neighbour and explaining politely that you are being troubled by noise. You may find this difficult, but often people are unaware that they are causing a problem and most people will be glad to do what they can to reduce the noise. If you consider it to be appropriate you could invite them into your property to hear the level of noise for themselves. However, approach the matter carefully if you think your neighbour might react angrily to a complaint.
Start to keep a record of the times you have spoken to your neighbours and copies of any letters you write. In addition, you should keep a diary of the dates and times the nuisance occurs, its duration and the effect it has on you. If the problem persists you can consider making a formal complaint to Chesterfield Borough Council, Environmental Services.
How your complaint will be investigated
On receipt of your complaint, an investigation will be conducted by a suitably qualified and experienced officer in line with our current noise nuisance investigation procedure. We will initially write to you and ask you to keep a diary of the dates and times when you hear the noise and the effect it has on you. This will help us to assess the nature of the particular problem and allow us to choose the best method of proceeding with your case. At this stage we will also write to the alleged perpetrator to inform them that a complaint has been received. This initial approach is often sufficient to bring about an improvement in the problems you are experiencing.
If you do not note an improvement in the situation following this informal approach, the investigating officer will instigate a more formal investigation. This investigation may involve the use of digital noise recording equipment being installed in your home and/or personal noise observations from your home.
When officers carry out noise observations or listen to digital noise recordings they are attempting to determine how unreasonable the noise is to the average person. The law considers that a certain amount of general living noise is acceptable in day-today life, and that it is not unreasonable to hear your neighbours from time to time when living in densely populated towns and cities. The determination of statutory Nuisance is therefore subjective in nature, but decisions are always based on established case law and the professional judgement of investigating officers.
Some of the factors which are taken into consideration when determining whether the noise constitutes a Statutory Noise Nuisance are:
- how loud the noise is
- the time of day/night when the noise occurs
- how long the noise goes on for
- how frequently the noise occurs
- the nature/character of the area (ie, residential, town centre, industrial, etc.)
- the type of noise (ie, banging, pulsing, droning, etc.)
The sensitivity of the complainant to noise (ie, tinnitus sufferers, night workers, etc.) does not have a bearing on whether a noise is a nuisance, but we may be able to give informal advice to try to seek a solution.
Once the investigating officer has substantiated the existence or likely occurrence/recurrence of a Statutory Noise Nuisance, the council must serve a Noise Abatement Notice on the perpetrator requiring the noise be abated. A time period for compliance will be specified on the notice, and the recipient has 21 days to appeal the notice in the Magistrates' Court. Non-compliance with the terms of an abatement notice is an offence, which upon summary conviction can result in a fine of up to £5,000 for domestic properties and £20,000 for trade and commercial premises. Throughout the period of an investigation, the investigating officer will monitor the situation closely to note any change in circumstances and to determine whether the terms of the notice have been complied with.
The success of the council's legal action in a noise nuisance investigation will rely on:
- evidence gathered by the complaint in the form of record sheets
- contemporaneous notes and case file evidence compiled by the investigating officer
- witness statements given by the complainant
- digitally recorded noise data and/or records from personal observations
- witness statements given by other agencies (eg, Fire, Police, Community Safety, Neighbourhood Rangers, Housing Officers, etc.)