Noise is defined as unwanted sound. Loud noises can cause upset and distress to people in their homes. If you are having problems with excessive noise, from a neighbour in a domestic property or from a business, then there are things that you can do to help solve the problem.

How you can deal with noise problems

The first thing you should do, in most cases, is speak to the person who is causing the noise problem. If the noise is coming from a neighbour, try to discuss the issue with them. In most cases they will be unaware that their noise is bothering you and an informal discussion may be all that is needed. If you are concerned about the reaction of your neighbour then please do no approach them.

A reputable business is more likely to be open to a direct approach from a neighbour. However, if you have tried this or, again, don’t feel comfortable approaching them, you don’t have to put up with the noise. If the noise is from a business and we are satisfied that there is likely to be a problem we will make contact on your behalf.

Specific to industrial, trade or business premises there is a statutory defence of ‘best practicable means’ (BPM) – this is available as a ground for appeal and as a defence to prosecution when it is alleged that a notice, served under section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, has been breached. When considering the defence of BPM, it is up to the courts to decide whether the best practicable means has been used; and up to the defendant to justify why the particular means employed by them are better than others (to the civil standard). In doing so the courts may consider the financial or practical implications of actual and potential means of abating a nuisance.

If discussing the issue with your neighbour does not resolve the issue you could try a mediation service. For more information about this and where to get help read: GOV.UK - resolving neighbour disputes

If after considering the above this has not helped the problem please phone our Customer Services Team on 01284 757053 or email

What the council can investigate

The local authority has a duty to investigate all complaints of ‘statutory nuisance’; a statutory nuisance is when noise significantly and unreasonably interferes with your personal comfort and ordinary enjoyment of your home. Whether the noise can be defined as a 'statutory nuisance' will be decided by the local authority.

How does the council investigate

The assessment of statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (the applicable legislation for noise and other statutory nuisance complaints) is a subjective one, that is, there aren’t any defined limits or criteria that automatically make a noise a statutory nuisance. Instead a number of different factors are considered and taken together to form an opinion. These aren’t legally defined, but it is common to consider the following (in no particular order):

  • intensity (loudness)
  • time of day the noise occurs (daytime versus nighttime and so on)
  • frequency of occurrence (how many times, not sound spectrum frequency)
  • duration of occurrence
  • nature of the locality, for example urban versus rural
  • how reasonable the activity is
  • necessity or benefit of the activity (more relevant to commercial noise than residential)
  • how controllable or preventable the activity is (taking onto account best practicable means – see below)
  • number of people affected and complaining.

In a line, for a statutory nuisance to exist the matter complained about has to amount to a significant and unreasonable interference with the ordinary enjoyment of a neighbouring property, as judged from the point of view of an ‘ordinary’ person i.e. one that isn’t unduly sensitive or unusually affected by a noise. A good example of this might be a shift worker affected by noise in the daytime that might not otherwise affect a more ‘ordinary’ person, other sensitivities can arise by virtue of age or health-related issues.

Check frequently asked questions about noise

What the council will do if you make a complaint

Complaints are investigated under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. If you feel that you are being affected by statutory noise nuisance and want to make a complaint you will be asked to complete noise diary sheets. Please refer to the guidance notes before submitting your form.:

If you have logged your complaint with us, please send completed forms to with the worksheet reference number in the subject box.

Your noise diary will be used to make an informal assessment of what, if any, further action and investigation may be appropriate.

If we think that the noise is likely to be a statutory nuisance then we will investigate the complaint further. Our investigations may take the form of visits to your property and the use of digital audio recording equipment. If after further investigation and evidence gathering we think a statutory nuisance exists, we will serve a noise abatement notice to require the person responsible to stop the noise occurring. Where appropriate we will always offer advice and assistance to the person who is alleged to be causing the noise in order to minimise it.

Please note, we cannot accept complaints that are made anonymously because this would preclude us being able to investigate properly and gather the required evidence to support formal action. However, we treat all complaints confidentially so your details will not be disclosed to the person responsible without your express permission first.

Noise the council cannot investigate

We cannot intervene or investigate noise that can be considered part of 'normal living activities' such as:

  • children playing
  • crying babies
  • loud voices or shouting in the street
  • noisy car and motorcycle exhausts
  • occasional dog barking
  • one off parties
  • road traffic noise

We also can’t investigate aircraft noise (if military contact RAF Lakenheath - noise complaints can be made online using RAF Lakenheath - Contact us). If the noise is from general aviation or helicopter noise, please see the Civil Aviation Authority website for further information.

What you can do if you don't want to make a formal complaint to the council

If discussions have failed and you want to pursue the matter but do not want to involve the council, you can take private action under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. This can also be done in the event the local authority has investigated and determined no further action can be taken.

  • Under section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 you can make a complaint directly to the magistrates' court on the grounds that you are aggrieved by a statutory nuisance.
  • You should inform your neighbour, in your opinion, they are causing a nuisance and if they do not stop or improve matters you will take your complaint to a magistrate's court.
  • If this does not resolve your complaint you must give your neighbour at least three days in writing of your intention to complain to a magistrate's court. This can be done by delivering the letter by hand or sending by normal post. You should make sure the letter is dated and keep a copy.
  • The next step, if there is no improvement, is to contact the Clerk of the Court at a magistrate's court, The details for Ipswich magistrates' court are:

  • Elm Street, Ipswich, IP1 2AP
    telephone: 01473 21726
  • Tell the clerk you wish to make a complaint under section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990
  • You can file for an injunction or damages in respect of private nuisance.

While not strictly necessary or required to take your own action, we always advise you to contact a solicitor to seek your own legal advice before taking private action, you will be responsible for any costs incurred from following this course of action.

What the police are able to investigate

Unless there are issues that relate to crime and disorder the police will refer noise complaints to the council. However, the police do have powers to deal with some noise disturbances such as those resulting from large, disruptive parties as a potential ‘breach of the peace’, likewise they should deal with noise arising from domestic violence or crime and disorder in public places.

Noise from animals and bird scarers

We cannot intervene if the noise can be considered part of 'normal living activities' such as occasional dog barking or cockerels crowing. If the noise is persistent, excessive or happens at unreasonable times of the day then we would investigate as we would any other noise complaint.

The use of bird scarers is not illegal. Farmers and land owners should be using them according to the National Farmers Union (NFU) code of conduct. This sets out responsible use of bird scarers such as frequency of use, location and when to use them. We would investigate noise complaints about bird scarers in the same way as any other noise complaint, however part of our assessment will include the nature of the locality, reasonableness and necessity or benefit of the activity as per the bulleted list of considerations above. You can pursue private action as with any other noise complaint.

Check frequently asked questions about bird scarers

Noise from licensed premises

Premises that serve alcohol, serve food late at night (after 11pm) and provide 'regulated entertainment' (live, recorded music and so on) may need to have a premises licence to do so under the Licensing Act 2003 (but see below for more on this). These activities are known as 'licensable activities' and licence holders have a responsibility to meet the government's licensing objectives. You can find out more about the objectives and our statement of licensing principles from our page: Alcohol and entertainment licences

Complaints about noise from licensed premises will be dealt with the same way as any other noise complaint but we would also advise our Licensing team. The Licensing team will be able to check that the licence holder was meeting any conditions set out in their licence. They would also take the opportunity to discuss the noise complaint with licence holder and advise any measures or steps that could be taken to minimise the noise.

The police will only be able to investigate if there is or imminently likely to be disorder or public nuisance in the vicinity of the premises that directly relates to the licensable activities. If there were serious concerns about a premises licence then the council can request a review of the licence.

Exemptions to the requirement for a Premises Licence

Any premises can also apply for what are known as ‘Temporary Event Notices’ (TENs) under the Licensing Act 2003. In simple terms a TEN can, as the name suggests, temporarily authorise licensable activities and times that aren’t already permitted by a Premises Licence.

Furthermore, since the Licensing Act 2003 came into force in 2005, the Live Music Act 2012 has deregulated live music from the Licensing Act 2003 under certain circumstances. Similarly, the Legislative Reform (Entertainment Licensing) Order 2014, in force from April 2015, further deregulated both live and recorded music under certain circumstances too.

These various exemptions mean that it doesn’t necessarily follow that live or recorded music, whether provided in a licensed premises or not, automatically needs permission. However, complaints about excessively loud music can still be reported.

Can you request a review of a licences premises?

Any individual, business or a representative of either can apply for a review of a premises licence. However, before applying for a licence review, consider if the issue can be dealt with informally such as:

  • speaking to the licence holder directly - they may be genuinely unaware that there are any problems
  • asking the Licensing team to speak to the licence holder on your behalf
  • asking your local councillor to speak to the licence holder on your behalf
  • speaking with the Licensing team, the Public Health and Housing team or the police to see if there is any other legislation that can help resolve the issue.

For more information, please see our Licensing page.

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