Noise, odour, light pollution FAQs

Are there specific times when noise can be classed as causing a nuisance?

Contrary to popular belief there are no set time periods when noise can be classed as causing a nuisance. If the noise in question is unreasonable and excessive, it has the potential to cause a Statutory Nuisance at any time of the day or night. Although anti social hours do tend to be more of a problem.

Neighbours need to show a certain amount of tolerance towards each other, as we all make noise at some point. However, neighbours also need to be considerate and mindful of the noise they make and take reasonable steps to make sure they do not cause a nuisance to their neighbours.

If you are going to be carrying out DIY or you are having a party, try and mention it to your neighbours in advance and remember to try and make sure that noise is kept to a minimum, particularly at anti social times.

There are many factors involved in assessing whether a noise constitutes a Statutory Nuisance, such as frequency and duration of events, the level of the noise and whether it materially affects the enjoyment of neighbouring properties.

At what level would noise cause a nuisance?

There is no set level that noise must reach before being classed as a nuisance. If the level of noise affects/spoils the enjoyment of the complainant’s property, then this can be dealt with as a formal complaint under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, as a Statutory Nuisance.

What can I do about loud music or barking dogs?

These are common complaints and are on the increase due to poor sound insulation, more powerful equipment, conflicting lifestyles and reduced tolerance levels.

It is part of our daily lives to sometimes be subjected to noise from time to time, such as music, barking dogs etc. This in itself is not unreasonable and would not normally amount to a Statutory Nuisance. For a Statutory Nuisance to exist, the noise would need to be persistent and interfere substantially with the enjoyment of neighbouring properties.

It is always best in the first instance to approach the person responsible for the noise and talk it through with them, as they may be unaware of the problem or how much it is affecting you, by doing this hopefully the problem can be resolved straight away (do bear in mind a degree of patience may be required whilst alleviating certain problems such as barking dogs, in some cases support from neighbours may be required in resolving such problems).

What can I do about a burglar alarm sounding?

Noise from intruder alarms that sound persistently can cause a genuine problem for those who are not able to escape the continuous ringing. Noise from a sounding alarm can be dealt with as a formal complaint under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 as a Statutory Nuisance.

In the first instance we suggest that you try and contact nearby neighbours. They may be in a position to tell you who owns the house where the alarm is sounding and if the owners are on holiday or at work etc. Neighbours may also be aware of any friends/relatives who can help in the owner’s absence.

This department can take action if the problem cannot be resolved informally. Due to the complexity involved in dealing with intruder alarm complaints an immediate result cannot be guaranteed. Calls received late in the afternoon may not be addressed until the following day. Each case is assessed individually. First we would make further attempts to locate anyone who can turn the alarm off. Failing this, enforcement action can be taken if a Statutory Nuisance is being caused.

Following service of an enforcement notice, a warrant may be required from the magistrates court, which enables this department to disarm the alarm.

If officers need to gain entry to a property both an electrician and a locksmith are also required to disarm the alarm and leave the property secure. If this course of action is taken all costs incurred are charged to the owner of the alarm.

What can I do about my neighbour’s security light - it’s shining directly into my window?

Light sources are commonly used to provide security to domestic properties or commercial/industrial premises. Light used in this manner would not normally be considered to be unreasonable. However, artificial light can cause a nuisance and interfere with the enjoyment of neighbouring properties.

Unwanted light can be an intrusion. For instance if a security light shines through a bedroom window at night and prevents a person from sleeping, this can amount to a nuisance.

It is important to be sensible if a neighbour’s light is affecting you. In the first instance reasonable action should be taken in your own property, i.e. using suitable curtains to prevent the light affecting you.

Should there still be a problem following this, you should try speaking with your neighbour, as they may be unaware that a problem exists. In doing this, hopefully, the problem can be resolved straight away. Usually in such cases readjusting the direction of the light or relocating the light is sufficient enough to remedy the problem. Using the minimum level of illumination necessary to light the intended area only is also important.

How does the Pollution team investigate a statutory nuisance?

If after you have spoken with those responsible and the problem still continues the council can investigate and deal with the issue as a formal complaint under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 as a Statutory Nuisance.

Complaints are subject to a standard procedure, which in the first instance requires evidence to be gathered by the complainant in the form of diary sheets, which inform us of when the nuisance occurs and to what extent the complainant is affected. Without this level of detail we cannot progress forward with the complaint. The information on the diary sheet will form part of the case and also indicate to the pollution officer when to capture the actual problem.

The investigating officer assesses every complaint individually and makes an unbiased decision on whether the problem is excessive, unreasonable and spoiling the enjoyment of a neighbouring property. Action can be taken when the officer is satisfied that a Statutory Nuisance exists. An Abatement Notice can then be served on the person responsible for the nuisance. Failure to comply with the Notice could lead to prosecution or seizure of equipment. For further details on Statutory Nuisance please use the link in the left hand column to read our ‘Statutory Nuisance’ section.

How would I know if someone has complained about me?

If the Department receives a formal complaint about you, we inform you in writing. The letter details what the problem is, who the investigating officer is and their contact phone number. At the initial letter stage the complaint is only alleged, as we have no evidence to suggest a nuisance exists.

We write to you to inform you that we are investigating a complaint and give you the opportunity to take any reasonable steps to alleviate the problem should you feel it necessary.

Can I make an anonymous complaint?

We are unable to take on a complaint anonymously. The legislation states that a person has to be adversely affected by the nuisance within their property for it to constitute a Statutory Nuisance. We also need the complainant’s assistance in gathering evidence to support the case.

Under the Data Protection Act 1998 the complainant’s details are not disclosed at the initial stages of a complaint. However, if enforcement action is taken, an Abatement Notice is served on the person responsible for the noise and at this stage details of the complainant’s property are stated on the notice (as the premise being affected).