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Frequently asked questions about noise

Frequently asked questions about noise

We receive around 700 noise complaints each year.

Listed below are some of the most frequently asked questions we get asked.

Common questions about noise problems

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Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 we have a duty to investigate complaints that are brought to our attention. In order to proceed with a complaint we will need to take you name and address; your details will remain confidential. Unfortunately we are unable to process anonymous complaints; this is because when we listen to noise, we have to assess how the noise affects you at your property. 

During the investigation process you will be required to complete a noise diary, usually for a couple of weeks at a time; this will provide some background as to how often the noise occurs and will allow us to determine whether it is a case we can proceed with and how best to investigate the complaint.

If the noise is from a business, we will often contact them to discuss the issue which is concerning you, while you are making notes on when the noise happens, but we will still need your information in order to take things further. 

If we are unable to resolve your complaint informally we will carry out monitoring from your property either by officers visiting in person, by installing noise monitoring equipment or a combination of both. This is so that we can listen to the noise and determine whether the noise is a statutory nuisance

If we find that a statutory noise nuisance is being caused, we then serve a legal document called an abatement notice on the person(s) responsible for the noise nuisance to put in place steps to reduce the noise level. Failure to comply with the Abatement Notice is an offence and may result in either a prosecution (being taken to court) and/or seizure (removal of the noise equipment). 

If the subject of the complaint is a council tenant, then the Estates and Neighbourhoods Team in the Housing Department can also be involved with the complaint investigation and will consider the complaint and investigate for any breach of tenancy.

Record sheets are used to collect evidence specifying what is happening and when. It is important that you record the times and dates that you are being disturbed by the noise(s) as we need this information to help us decide how best to investigate your complaint.

Records help us find out when the best time to visit will be in order to witness the problem for ourselves (if the investigate reaches the formal stage).

Record sheets are used as evidence of an ongoing problem, when we are not able to visit your property.

The most common sources of noise complaint include:

  • 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 birds

We are unable to investigate noise problems caused by:

  • 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).

We regularly receive complaints about noise from people (shouting, swearing, arguing and fighting). In some circumstances we would refer you onto either the Police, Housing Services and the Community Safety Team.

Talk to the person causing you the problem.

It may be that they are simply unaware that their actions are causing you a problem, and by making them aware of this, that could be enough to resolve the situation amicably. You are always encouraged to speak to your neighbour before contacting us to try and resolve any problems informally. 

If you are unable to speak with your neighbour you could write to your neighbour. 

You can also take your own private legal action against your neighbour. Find out more about taking your own private action.

We need to assess the nature and level of the noise problem being complained about. This is done by talking to you and reading the information that you supply on the record sheets.

Officers are not always available to respond immediately to complaints, and need to programme monitoring into their work schedule. If the event that you are complaining about is a one off event, such as a birthday party, then whilst appreciating that there will be some disturbance, part of the judgement of whether a statutory nuisance exists is how often an event happens. 

Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 we are unable to carry out ‘covert surveillance’ and as such, when we receive a complaint we have to contact the person(s) causing the noise to allow them the opportunity to resolve the complaint informally.

We do not operate an out of hours noise service; however officers from the Environmental Protection Team can make pre-arranged visits out of hours to investigate ongoing noise complaints. Any calls received out of hours will be normally dealt with by an officer the next working day.

Complaints are investigated in accordance with the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which is the legislation that deals with noise affecting people in their homes. It means we have to look at how often the noise occurs and how it affects you. Without a complainant the effect of the noise can’t be shown. We are unable to fully investigate anonymous complaints because we need information from you to enable the investigation to be carried out.

Your name and address details will be kept in strictest confidence. You should be aware however, that sometimes the person you have made a complaint about may guess who has complained (for example if you live in a semi detached property). They may also approach you to ask if you have made the complaint or may tell you the council has told them who has complained.

We will not give your details to the person or business you are complaining about.

If you do not give us your details then we cannot help you with your complaint.

If the person responsible for the noise disturbance is a council tenant the Estates and Neighbourhoods Team will be informed of the problem as any substantiated statutory noise nuisance could also be a breach of the tenancy conditions.

The Estates and Neighbourhoods Team will then take their own action in tandem with any enforcement action taken by the Environmental Protection Team and in extreme cases tenants could be evicted from their homes.

We are unable to investigate complaints from anonymous callers because we need to keep in touch with the complainant and we also have to establish that the noise being complained affects you at your property. 

You can speak with your neighbour or write a letter to your neighbour or you can take your own private action.

Yes, under the Data Protection Act we have to keep your details confidential. For example, if you live in a semi-detached property, neighbours will often guess who has complained.

If a case leads to prosecution you may be asked to give evidence in court, and if you have completed diary sheets which are usually signed these may be submitted as evidence.

We try to deal with problems as informally as possible.

However, where the case officer has investigated the complaint and has substantiated a statutory noise nuisance, under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, we have a statutory duty to serve an Abatement Notice on the person(s) responsible for the statutory noise nuisance. An Abatement Notice is a legal document and requires the recipient to put in place measures that will ameliorate the noise. 

Failure to comply with an Abatement Notice is an offence and may result in either ‘seizure of noise making equipment’ (removal of televisions, musical instruments, music/stereo systems, games consoles etc) and/or presenting evidence in the magistrates court for prosecution. 

As well as ‘statutory nuisance’ powers, the council can consider noise disturbance as anti-social behaviour under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act which came into force in October 2014. Under Part 4 of this legislation, ‘Community Protection Notices’ can be issued to address on-going problems or anti-social issues which negatively affect an individual, household or a community’s quality of life. Breaching a Community Protection Notice could result in the perpetrator being issued with a fixed penalty notice and/or a prosecution proceedings in court. 

The success of the legal action relies on:

  • evidence gathered by the complainant 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 partnership, neighbourhood wardens, housing officers). 




Court cases are very rare as we try and resolve the complaint informally, however, each case is taken on its own merits.

Your completed record sheets and a signed witness statement will form part of the prosecution files and this is usually sufficient. Without this information we are unable to proceed to a prosecution.

If you have any queries please contact us:

  • through our online contact form
  • in person at the Customer Service Centre
  • by phone on 01246 345345
  • by letter to the Environmental Protection Team, Chesterfield Borough Council, Town Hall, Rose Hill, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, S40 1LP

Last updated on 08 April 2020