Sound is essential to our daily lives, but noise is not – noise can be defined as unwanted sound. Noise is a widespread source of irritation and, at sufficient volume, poses a serious threat to hearing. Many of us are exposed to levels of noise, which add to the stress of everyday life. In cases where noise is so great that it affects the rights of people to enjoy their own homes, there are steps which can be taken to resolve the problem.
Noise is on the increase in our society and the following information underlines what can be done to minimise or control it.
How You Can Help In And Around The Home
Noise is one form of pollution upon which each of us can have a direct affect. Each of us can add to the pollution and become part of the problem – or we can choose to meet the challenge and become part of the solution. Although the amount of noise made by any one person or household may seem negligible, it can make a real difference to the comfort of neighbours and even other members of the family. The following simple measures can be taken:
- Perform noisy DIY jobs during normal waking hours
- Apologise to neighbours in advance for disturbance caused by drilling, hammering, etc
- Mow the lawn at a reasonable hour
- Keep the volume of TV, radio and music as low as possible, especially late at night
- If you want to turn the volume up, use headphones for stereos and radios
- If your dog barks when left alone, arrange to leave it with a friend, alternatively, you may find that if you play a radio quietly this will help to settle the dog
- If you have an old or faulty burglar alarm, replace it with a more modern one
- If you want to have a party, tell your neighbours and keep the noise down to a minimum
How You Can Help With Your Car
- Avoid slamming car doors, especially at night
- Use the horn only in an emergency
- Don’t play your car radio too loudly
- Carry out noisy repairs during the day
- If your car alarm keeps misfiring, have it fixed so it cuts out within 5 minutes of sounding
Noise From Neighbours
Noise from neighbours is a common source of nuisance, and for some people can be very upsetting. The main problems are caused by barking dogs, loud music or TV, shouting, banging doors and DIY activities. Remember that no house or flat is totally sound proof – everyone can expect a degree of noise from neighbours. If you have been disturbed by noise from neighbours there could be a number of reasons. These could include the neighbours behaving unreasonably, for instance, by playing loud music late at night or allowing their dog to bark all day. You may also have become over sensitive to the noise, particularly if you do not get on with your neighbours. Some people will "tune in" to the noise from next door and find it annoying even when most people might not.
What can you do?
Firstly, it may be possible to approach your neighbours and explain why you are being troubled by the noise. Although you may find this difficult, it is surprising how often neighbours are unaware of the unhappiness they are causing. If they are reasonable people they may glad to do what they can to reduce the noise and may even thank you for letting them know.
- If your neighbours continue to cause a nuisance, you could write to them explaining about the affect the noise is having upon you.
- Ask them to stop make a noise nuisance, referring to any conversations you may have had and what, if anything, they agreed to do about it.
- Keep a copy of the letter.
- Start a diary recording the dates and times of any noise nuisance.
- Record details of what the noise was, the affect it has on you and keep a record of any conversations you have or letters you write.
What if a neighbourly approach does not work?
If you live in a Council House – contact your local Area Housing Services.
If you live in a Council property, it is worth discussing your problem with Housing Services. Most conditions of tenancy include a requirement that tenants should not cause nuisance to neighbours. Housing Services are prepared to take action if serious noise nuisance is being caused.
In the case of noisy parties, loud stereos, TVs and the like – contact the Police
Where a Constable in uniform thinks that the noise would give an ordinary person "reasonable cause for annoyance" he can tell the person responsible for the noise to do something about it. If the person fails to do so, they could be prosecuted. The police may also consider that a Breach of the Peace has taken place and charge the person with that offence. In certain circumstances, the Police may also confiscate the noisy equipment to use as evidence.
If your neighbour has a noisy dog – contact The Transport, Environmental & Community Services
At your request, Transport, Environmental & Community Services may arrange for a Dog Warden to contact you neighbour and offer advice on what can be done to control the barking. If your neighbour does nothing about the problem, you could apply to the District Court for any order to be made which would require the owner of the dog to take steps to prevent annoyance short of having the animal destroyed. In order to proceed with this course of action you should contact the local Court, www.crownoffice.gov.uk and obtain their advice on a formal application to the Court.
Noise From Industrial, Commercial and Other Premises
Certain premises, such as factories and quarries may have been granted Planning Permission with conditions attached, which are aimed at limiting noise. These conditions may restrict working hours and may limit noise emissions to a particular level.
In the case of licensed premises and discos, the Licensing Board may have imposed conditions regarding amplified music or opening hours.
Even if no restrictions exist, The Environmental Protection Act 1990, enables Local Authorities to take action if the noise is considered to amount to a statutory nuisance. There is no statutory definition of noise nuisance and therefore when determining whether the noise amounts to a nuisance, the Local Authority TEC Services Officers require to give consideration to common law principals and case law. Factors such as loudness of the noise, how often it occurs, how long it lasts and the times of day it occurs would require to be taken into account. In view of this, there can be circumstances where noise can upset you, and the TEC Services Officer may be very sympathetic to the effect the noise is having on you personally, but they may not be able to state in all honesty that the noise would represent a Statutory Nuisance to the "average" person.
How do you complain about noise from industrial and commercial premises?
Complain to the business responsible for the noise.
If you do not obtain any satisfaction from speaking to the business you may then consider taking the following actions:
Complain to the local Environmental Health Office
- Transport, Environmental & Community Services Officers will be able to offer advice and if necessary, arrange to investigate your complaint. With your consent they may contact the person responsible for the noise. If the problem cannot be dealt with informally and the TEC Services Officers are satisfied that the noise amounts to a Statutory Nuisance, they can serve an "Abatement Notice" in terms of The Environmental Protection Act, 1990. If the person without reasonable cause fails to comply with the Notice, proceedings can be taken in the Sheriff Court. In the case of a trade or business, the Company has a statutory defence if it can show that it has taken the "best practical means" to control the noise.
Complain direct to the Sheriff Court.
- As an occupier of premises affected by noise amounting to a nuisance you can complain directly to the Sheriff Court in terms of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. You may do this because you don’t wish to involve the Local Authority or because you have not obtained satisfaction from them.
- Although you can apply to the Sheriff Court direct, you may wish to obtain advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau or from a solicitor.
Take Civil Action
- Civil Action may be taken if you can demonstrate that the noise nuisance substantially affects your health, comfort or convenience. It can prove very expensive and it is wise to seek legal advice. If you can win the case you will obtain an injunction to stop the noise and can sometimes claim damages. Civil Action differs from Sheriff Court proceedings in that the judgement would be based on how the nuisance affects you.
This covers the construction, alteration, repair and maintenance of buildings, structures, or roads and demolition work. These operations are inherently noisy, and often take place in areas, which were quiet beforehand and are expected to be quiet again after the work has ceased.
Certain larger scale developments may have been granted planning permission with conditions attached which restrict the working hours of the developer or may limit noise emissions to a particular level. In terms of the Control of Pollution Act 1974, the local Transport, Environmental & Community Services office also has the power to serve an Notice imposing requirements which may stipulate how the construction work should be carried out in order to minimise noise nuisance or which may limit hours of the work. TEC Services Officers will be able to offer advice and if necessary, arrange to investigate your complaint.
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