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Noise control
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Introduction

A range of sometimes overlapping statutes apply to noise control of various kinds. The following is a brief summary,

Statutory nuisance

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 s.79 creates two statutory nuisances relating to noise:

* Noise emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance; and

* Noise emitted from or caused by a vehicle, machinery, or equipment (including a musical instrument) in a street, which is prejudicial to health or a nuisance.

When, after investigation, it is found that a complaint from a resident falls into one of the above categories the local authority must serve an abatement notice. Where the terms of a section 80 abatement notice are not complied with the local authority may initiate criminal proceedings. They (by virtue of s.10 of the Noise Act 1996) may also seize and remove equipment.

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 s.82 enables magistrates (or a sheriff) to take action on receipt of a complaint from a person aggrieved by noise that amounts to a nuisance. Complaints may be made by occupiers of premises and may relate to noise emitted from premises or from vehicles in the street (but does not apply to noise from aircraft, traffic, military or Crown).

If the magistrate is satisfied that the nuisance exists (or existed and is likely to recur) it may make an order requiring the person responsible to abate the nuisance within a certain time (or to prohibit it recurrence). Where the person responsible can’t be found proceedings may be brought against the owner or occupier.

Audible intruder alarms

Authorised officers of the local authority have powers to enter premises and silence intruder alarms where they have been sounding continuously for 20 minutes or intermittently for an hour and are likely to give cause for annoyance. In order to gain entry using reasonable force a warrant must first be obtained from a magistrate.

The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 contains powers for local authorities to designate alarm notification areas. The provisions require occupiers or owners of any premises to notify the local authority of key-holders. There are fixed penalty notices for those who fail to nominate or notify of key-holders.

Building and construction sites (EW, S)

The Control of Pollution Act 1974 ss.60-61 empowers for local authorities to restrict noise arising from work carried out on construction or demolition sites. This includes the ability to specify hours of work or restrict types of equipment used.

This authority would therefore expect that any work audible beyond the boundary of the site should only be carried out between the hours of 8am to 6pm on Mondays to Fridays and 8.00 am to 1pm on Saturdays; there should be no noisy works carried out on Sundays or Bank Holidays or Public Holidays.

Ice cream van noise

Defra has issued a code of practice on methods to ensure any annoyance from ice cream vans may be minimised.  Owners of vans selling ice cream and other foodstuffs on public streets must ensure any chimes played through a loudspeaker use the minimal annoyance or disturbance. Most loudspeakers used in this connection are fixed to ice-cream vans and play a chiming call signal.

The code of practice should be taken as applying equally to any other sounds made by a loudspeaker fixed to a vehicle from which perishable goods are sold to the public. Although the code of practice does not have the force of law, courts and local authorities must have regard to it in any consideration of ‘best practicable means’ under Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA). Under the EPA, s.79(1)(ga), noise which is prejudicial to health or a nuisance, emitted from or caused by a vehicle, machinery or equipment in the street, is a statutory nuisance. Under the Control of Pollution Act 1974, s 62, it is an offence to operate or permit the operation of any loudspeaker of the ‘ice-cream van chimes’ type in a street unless all the following conditions are complied with:

* the loudspeaker is operated only between the hours of noon and 7pm on the same day;
* the loudspeaker is fixed to a vehicle which is being used for the conveyance of a perishable commodity for human consumption;
* the loudspeaker is operated solely for informing members of the public (otherwise than by means of words) that the commodity is on sale from the vehicle;
* the loudspeaker is operated so as not to give reasonable cause for annoyance to anyone in the vicinity

Annoyance is most likely to be caused if the volume of chimes is excessive, the chimes are played too frequently or for too long, played in areas where people are particularly sensitive to noise, or if the sound of the chimes is distorted. The methods by which such annoyance can be minimised are described in the code of practice. Owners of vans selling ice cream and other foodstuffs should ensure the main points of the code are displayed in all vehicles fitted with a loudspeaker, and it is brought to the attention of anyone concerned with the operation of the chimes.


Motorcycle exhaust systems

The Motor Cycle Noise Act 1987 prohibits the supply, in the course of carrying on a business, of an exhaust system for a motor cycle, or a silencer, or any component other than a silencer or fixing, for such a system, unless the system, silencer or component complies with such requirements as may be prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State.

Regulations: the Motor Cycle Silencer and Exhaust Systems Regulations 1995, SI 1995/2370..


Noise at night (EW)

A local authority in England and Wales may, if they receive a night noise complaint, arrange for an officer of the authority to take reasonable steps to investigate the complaint (Noise Act 1996). If the officer is satisfied that the noise meets the criteria below, he may serve a warning notice.

Night noise complaint: the kind of complaint which may be investigated is one made by any individual present in a dwelling during night hours that excessive noise is being emitted from:

* another dwelling (the offending dwelling; or

* any premises in respect of which a premises licence or a temporary event notice has effect “the offending premises).

Night hours: 'night hours' means the period beginning with 11 pm and ending with the following 7 am.

Excessive noise: noise is 'excessive' if it is being emitted from the offending dwelling [or the offending premises] during night hours, and the noise, if it were measured from within the complainant's dwelling, would or might exceed the permitted level.

[Page created: 05/05/2014]

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