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 a business, then there are things that you can do to help solve the problem.
How can you 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.
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.
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 this has not helped the problem then you can complete a noise complaint form
What can the councils investigate?
The Local Authority has a duty to investigate all complaints of nuisance; a statutory nuisance is when noise unreasonably interferes with your personal comfort and enjoyment of your home. Whether the noise can be defined as a 'statutory nuisance' will be decided by the Local Authority.
There is no fixed noise level, however, this will be considered, along with the time of day the noise occurs, how often and for how long the noise goes on for. The noise would have to be a significant problem and impact considerably on you to be defined as a statutory nuisance.
What will the councils do if I 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 a noise complaint form (electronic version)
- complete a noise complaint form (printable version)
Please refer to the noise diary guidance notes before submitting your form.
Note that you must fill out the electronic form in one session otherwise your data will be lost.
For completed printable version send to firstname.lastname@example.org with 'Noise/Odour Form' in the subject box.
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 recording equipment. If we think a statutory nuisance exists we will serve a noise abatement notice 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.
We cannot accept complaints that are made anonymously.
Noise the councils cannot investigate
We cannot intervene or investigate noise that can be considered part of 'normal living activities' such as:
- aircraft noise (contact RAF Lakenheath 01638 523145)
- 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
What can I do if I 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. There are two options available:
- 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' courts are:
Elm Street, Ipswich, IP1 2AP
telephone: 01473 21726
- Inform 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
We always advise you to contact a solicitor when taking private action, you will be responsible for any costs incurred from following this course of action.
Will the police be able to investigate?
Unless there are issues that relate to crime and disorder the police will refer noise complaints to the council. The police do have powers to deal with some noise disturbances such as those resulting from large, disruptive parties.
What about 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. You can pursue private action as with any other noise complaint.
Noise from licensed premises
Premises that serve alcohol, serve food late at night (after 11pm) and offer 'regulated entertainment' need to have a licence to do so. 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.
Can I 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