Noise nuisance and noisy neighbours

We receive a large number of noise complaints each year. The main issues are loud music, barking dogs, shouting, banging doors and DIY/construction activities, and noise from commercial or industrial premises.

No house or flat is totally soundproof, and everyday living gives rise to noise from time to time. It is normal to hear some noise from your neighbours, and they from you, but obviously sometimes this can go beyond what is ‘normal’. Usually, noise will need to be coming from private land or property to allow us to act, but there are some exceptions to this, for example, car alarms from cars parked in the road.

What you can do

If your neighbour (or a neighbouring business) is causing you a regular or significant noise problem, it is usually worth approaching them to explain politely that you are troubled by the noise. Most are unaware and will be glad to do what they can to reduce the noise. You are not obliged to do this, but it might help neighbour relations in the long run.

If this doesn't work, or you are worried about approaching your neighbour you can contact the council to make a noise complaint by using our online form:

Inform us about a noise nuisance

Types of noise nuisance

This cannot be easily defined but could be described as an unreasonable interference with the normal enjoyment of your property. It will usually be something that is occurring regularly and/or continuing for a period of time that makes it unreasonable.

The following are unlikely to be a statutory nuisance:

  • a one-off party
  • neighbours arguing
  • a lawnmower being used
  • a baby crying or dogs barking occasionally

Noise that we have no control over:

  • road traffic/engine noise on the public highway
  • people shouting/laughing or screaming on a public road or footpath
  • air traffic noise

There is no maximum noise level (decibel level) that relates to noise nuisance. Each case is judged on what might be reasonable and normal for the situation. Factors taken into consideration:

  • when the noise is happening (noise can be a nuisance at any time of the day or night)
  • the duration of the noise
  • how often it is happening
  • the type of noise
  • whether there is social acceptance (for example, bonfire night or church bells)

Unfortunately, there is no added protection for shift workers or people who are studying or ill, and may want or expect a great degree of peace and quiet in the day than might be the norm.

How we will investigate your complaint

You will be assigned a case officer to investigate your complaint. You will be sent some advice and asked to complete a diary sheet on what has been happening. This evidence is crucial to taking the complaint forward, it allows us to challenge the person causing the alleged problem about noise that took place between certain times on certain days.

The diary sheet(s) should be completed over a period of 7 to 14 days and then returned to the case officer for assessment. You must return the diary sheets within the agreed time for the officer to assess the information and act upon it. Otherwise, the case will have to be closed.

If your diary record sheets indicate the likely existence of a statutory noise nuisance the investigating officer will contact the perpetrator to inform them of the complaint and the legal action available to the council should a statutory noise nuisance be witnessed.

If you experience significant disturbance during office hours while you are keeping the diary, you are advised to contact the investigating officer and it may be possible for them or another member of the team to visit and witness the noise.

PDF document Diary sheet(PDF) [2 Mb]

If the case is an emergency

We have an out of hours service to give advice and assistance on emergency environmental health issues when the council offices are closed. It is also available on bank holidays, including Christmas day.

Please note that this service is intended for genuine emergencies only (for example, house or car alarms). If it is not an emergency, please wait and contact us during normal working hours, when we have access to more resources.

You can contact us outside normal hours by calling 01256 844844. Your call will be connected to the out of hours contact centre who will be able to give you advice and assistance. In most cases this should deal with your concern but, if it is judged necessary, an officer may visit you.

Frequently asked questions

Will my neighbour know I complained?

We do not disclose your details to anyone. People might make assumptions about who has complained about them, but we won't confirm this. If we get to a stage where we have served a notice on your neighbour and they breach this notice, we might ask you to appear as a witness in court proceedings, but this would not be obligatory.

What happens after the noise source is informed of the complaint?

If the noise problem persists after we have written to them, we would expect to hear from you to inform us that it is still happening. The case officer will arrange with you how best to visit to assess the noise. It is still important for you to keep a record of what is happening by completing diary sheets.

What happens if the noise is a statutory nuisance?

If the case officer forms the view that the noise is a statutory nuisance the perpetrator will be served with a Noise Abatement Notice under section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. This will require them to stop making the noise that is causing the nuisance.

What if the noise is not a statutory nuisance?

If after a thorough investigation no noise nuisance is substantiated, the complaint will be closed. The decision will be confirmed verbally and/or in writing. You will also be advised of alternative courses of action available to you.

What if the noise continues after the notice has been served?

If you are still bothered by noise following the service of a Noise Abatement Notice you must notify the case officer. They will arrange further noise monitoring and ask you to continue keeping a written record of the noise causing you a disturbance.

If we get evidence that show the Noise Abatement Notice has been breached, then we can prosecute those responsible. In some situations we can also apply to the Magistrates Court for a warrant to enter the property to seize those things causing the nuisance, for example, stereos, televisions, speakers and other electronic devices.

People found guilty of breaching an Abatement Notice could be liable to an unlimited fine.

Contact details

Environmental Health team

If you have an enquiry about environmental health, send a message to the Environmental Health team

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