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What Type of Noise?

Noisy neighbours
Local councils can deal with noise from loud music, DIY activities, barking dogs or other excessive animal noise, car and burglar alarms, deliberate banging or raised voices (where unreasonable). There is more detail on some of these issues below. They cannot deal with noise arising from any reasonable activity or from passers-by, for example in the street. Nor can they deal with noise from shared property (except in Scotland). The Noisy Neighbours page gives advice on what to do if you have a problem.
Factories or industrial premises
Local councils can act to stop unreasonable industrial or commercial noise. Fines for noise from industrial and business premises are much higher than for noise from private homes. See further resources page for more about local authority powers on industrial or commercial noise.
Noise at work
Exposure to noise at work can cause hearing loss and a permanent ringing in the ears, known as tinnitus. The Health and Safety Executive website gives advice on what you can do if you are worried about noise at work. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 place a duty on employers to protect their employees from noise. They must assess and identify measures to eliminate or reduce risks from exposure to noise. The Health and Safety Executive enforces the Regulations where high exposure to occupational noise is likely to lead directly to hearing damage or interfere with workplace safety. Local authorities enforce them in music and entertainment business and some industrial premises, for example those associated with retail activities.
If you think your hearing may already have been affected from work-place noise (whether in your current job, or from many years ago), you may be able to claim compensation from your employer. This is a specialist area and time limits apply for bringing claims, so you should seek independent legal advice.
Pubs and clubs
Local councils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have powers to deal with complaints about excessive noise from pubs and clubs, for example noise caused by amplified music or customers’ unruly behaviour. If the noise is linked to anti-social behaviour such as disorderly or violent conduct, the police can get involved (read the police powers section on the FAQs page). In Scotland, councils regulate noise from pubs and clubs by imposing and enforcing planning and licensing conditions. Some councils may also have made by-laws to control this type of noise: ask your local council about this.
Construction sites
Noise from machinery, drilling, demolition work and other kinds of activity on construction sites can be very distressing for people who live nearby, particularly in otherwise quiet residential areas. Local councils can regulate noise from construction sites, both in advance of construction starting, and after a complaint. If a builder applies for consent, the council can set conditions to control noise. If the builder does not apply for consent, but it appears to the local council that construction is about to start, they can serve a noise control notice. After a complaint, council officers measure the noise coming from the site before deciding whether to impose conditions on how further construction work should be carried out. The council would consider whether the contractor has applied the “best practical means” to reduce or control the noise (see the FAQs page for a definition of “best practical means”). If the noise continues and any conditions set by the council are broken, fines can be up to £20,000 for each offence in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland fines for offences on industrial, trade or business premises can go up to £40,000.
Night time noise
If your local council has resolved to apply the provisions of the Noise Act 1996 (in England, Wales or Northern Ireland), or been ordered by the Secretary of State to do so, it must take reasonable steps to investigate complaints of noise from dwellings or licensed premises between 11pm and 7am. In Scotland, if your local council has resolved to adopt the provisions of Part 5 of the Antisocial Behaviour (Scotland) Act 2004 it has to ensure that an investigation is made into any complaint of noise from accommodation, shared private gardens or common property in a tenement or housing scheme (but not from licensed premises). Ask your local council if they have adopted the relevant noise control provisions. Council officers can enter premises where there is noise beyond the prescribed levels and remove any equipment responsible for the noise. Some councils have out-of-hours noise patrols who can investigate alleged night-time noise nuisances in person. The Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 also grants powers to local authorities in England and Wales to investigate night noises whether or not they have adopted the provisions of the Noise Act 1996.
Anti-social behaviour
Causing excessive noise at night can be a form of anti-social behaviour. The police now have extra powers to deal with anti-social behaviour. For example, they can work with local councils to obtain anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) against residents who cause alarm, harassment and distress to others.
Loudspeaker noise
The use of loudspeakers in the street for advertising any entertainment, trade or business is prohibited (except if the loudspeaker is on a vehicle selling perishable food between noon and 7pm and is operated in a way that does not give reasonable cause for annoyance, or if the council has given its consent to do so), but loudspeakers can be used for other purposes between 8am and 9pm. Councils can prosecute any unlawful use of loudspeakers, without issuing an abatement notice first, and users can be fined up to £5,000, plus a further fine of up to £50 for each day on which the offence continues after conviction. Essential services such as the police, ambulance services and fire brigade are exempt from loudspeaker restrictions.
Road traffic noise
Research by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on attitudes to noise reveals that traffic is one of the most commonly reported sources of noise in the UK. Engine noise and tyre vibrations are the main causes of traffic noise. This type of noise may not constitute a statutory nuisance but if it unreasonably interferes with the enjoyment of land, it can be treated as a private or public nuisance in common law. Local councils have very limited powers to deal with road traffic noise, but they have a legal duty under the Land Compensation Act 1973 and the Noise Insulation Regulations 1975 (or their Scottish eqivalents) to provide noise insulation in homes, where traffic noise from new or significantly altered roads exceeds the recommended levels. You can get more details on whether you are eligible for noise insulation from your local authority or, in England and Wales, from the Highways Agency (tel. 0300 123 5000), or in Scotland, from Transport Scotland (tel. 0141 272 7100).
Recreational noise
Motor sports, arcade games, recreational hunting, powerboat racing, clay pigeon shooting, public concerts, circuses, fairs and fireworks are some of the common sources of recreational noise in the UK. Indiscriminate use of fireworks, especially during celebrations, has become a major concern in many residential communities. The Firework Act 2003 and Fireworks Regulations 2004 introduced tighter controls on the use of fireworks, especially in public places. These include an outright ban on the use of powerful fireworks by unauthorised persons and on-the-spot fines for anyone using fireworks during anti-social hours (11pm to 7am). Under-18s are also banned from possessing or using most fireworks in public places or at anti-social hours.
Aircraft noise
Aircraft noise, especially at night, is obviously a particular problem for people living around airports and there have been attempts to control it through regulations. Local councils cannot deal with complaints about aircraft noise: they are handled by the Civil Aviation Authority’s Directorate of Airspace Policy. You can also complain directly to the airport that the noise is coming from. Contact the Ministry of Defence if the noise comes from a military aircraft. If you live near a civil or military airport, you may be able to benefit from a noise insulation scheme. To find out if you qualify, contact the appropriate air authority.

Airport noise contacts

Legislation

Noise Act 1996 as amended by the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005

Noise Act 1996

Section 1 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998

Sections 40 to 42 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003

Part 5 of the Antisocial Behaviour (Scotland) Act 2004

Part 7 of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005

Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005

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