Report an issue with noise, smoke, smells or light
Noise, smoke, odours and light issues can be classed as a ‘statutory nuisance’ - a problem that by law we can take action on. To decide if this is the case we need to look at:
- The severity of the problem
- The length of time it has lasted
- How often it happens
- Whether it would interfere with the ‘average’ person's reasonable enjoyment of their property
Before you report a problem you should first try to politely speak or write to the person or organisation causing the issue. Although you may find this difficult, it is surprising how often people are unaware of the problems they are causing.
Noise problems could be persistent noise from a business or a construction site, loud music from a bar or a club, or everyday things like noisy dogs.
In the case of rowdy behaviour outside - call the police on 101.
Unfortunately, the Council is generally unable to assist with noise complaints where the source is:
- Children playing eg in a garden, public space or park
- Talking or shouting, unless unreasonably loud or at unreasonable times
- Day-to-day domestic noise (eg lawn mowing, hedge trimming, washing machines, vacuuming etc)
- Traffic noise (including essential roadworks and maintenance)
- Railway noise (including essential maintenance)
- Aircraft noise
After you make a report you will be asked to keep a diary of the dates and times the nuisance occurs, its duration and the effect it has on you. The records must be made as events happen, not after the event. Records should be kept for a period of between 14 to 21 days. We will then review the diary and may undertake a full investigation into the noise.
If the noise is severe we can issue an ‘abatement notice’ on the person responsible asking them to stop. If they do not it could result in noise producing equipment being seized and prosecution.
Construction site noise
We can impose requirements about how works are carried out on construction sites. Generally we may impose restrictions and conditions on working hours, permitted noise levels, method of work and the type of equipment to be used.
Where there is the potential to cause noise nuisance, contractors are expected to stick to the following hours of work:
- Monday to Friday: 8am to 6pm
- Saturday: 8am to 1pm
- Sunday and Bank Holidays: No working on noisy activities
In certain circumstances we may give permission to work outside of these hours. However, the site operator must show that work could not be undertaken at any other time and the method of operation would ensure that the noise impact is kept to a minimum.
There may be certain types of construction work that must be undertaken outside of these hours. An example might be works to railways or busy roads that could not be undertaken during the day. In these instances every attempt will be made to ensure that disturbance is kept to a minimum.
Emergency works to gas or water supplies may also be carried out at short notice and this may be at night time.
Garden waste can be burnt in gardens providing smoke nuisance is not caused to the inhabitants of the neighbourhood. Read the code of practice on having a garden bonfire.
We can issue an ‘abatement notice’ asking for this to stop, if a neighbour’s bonfire is causing a nuisance. A bonfire must happen frequently to be considered a nuisance. Your neighbour can be fined up to £5,000 if they don’t stick to the notice.
It is an offence for industrial, trade or business premises to cause a nuisance to the local neighbourhood by creating dust. We can investigate complaints and if we need to we can issue an ‘abatement notice’ asking them to stop this.
If an individual is causing a nuisance with dust we may be able to help. In most cases we will speak to the person generating the dust before considering any formal action.
We can take action against nuisance caused by artificial light from premises (excluding transport facilities, freight depots, lighthouses, defence premises and prisons).
Light nuisance is a source of light that in the opinion of a trained public health professional, who makes an assessment on a case by case basis, interferes with someone's use of their property, and/or is prejudicial to someone's health. It must be more than simply an annoyance. An example of a light that may be a nuisance we can take action over is where light is spilling onto a property causing a neighbour's rooms to be lit up at night.
Dealing with your complaints
After getting your complaint we will:
- Write to the person or organisation advising them of the complaint
- Provide you with information explaining the law and our procedures
- Ask you to complete and return a diary giving details of when the problem occurs and how it affects you (this information is useful for determining the extent of the problem and to identify when it may be possible to witness the nuisance)
- When the diary sheet is returned we will examine the entries to determine whether a statutory nuisance exists.
- If appropriate further investigations will be carried out
- Should it be determined that a statutory nuisance exists an abatement notice legally asking them to stop causing the nuisance is usually given to the person responsible
If following this, the problem continues we will attempt to collect evidence to show a breach of the legal notice, and if proven we can take them to court. At this stage you and other witnesses may be required to provide a statement and give evidence in court.
Taking private action on an issue
If we cannot gather enough evidence to take action you can take private action against the person responsible for causing the nuisance.
If you take action under Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act then you will need to prove ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ that a nuisance exists, as this is criminal law. An alternative is to take civil action in the County or High Court to stop the nuisance - as this is civil law you only have to prove ‘on the balance of probability’.