If you are suffering noise disturbance or noise nuisance, our advice is to follow the steps below. Although the following information is primarily aimed at people affected by noise from an industrial / manufacturing factory or a commercial building, most of it also applies if the nuisance is caused by domestic residents / neighbours.
First contact the company or person that is creating the noise nuisance. Often, they are completely unaware that there is a problem and, sometimes, just letting them know can quickly lead to a solution. So always try this first - politely.
The exception is if the noise problem is caused by an aggressive person and you would feel threatened or at risk by contacting them directly. If this is the case, go to step 2 instead.
If the noise nuisance is being caused by a business or people who are tenants and they fail to respond to your request to be quiet, you could try contacting their landlord. Most Conditions of Tenancy require that tenants do not cause nuisance to neighbours. If tenants do not comply with this, landlords have powers to act and this may include taking out an injunction and eventually eviction. The landlord may be a local authority (or a housing association), or it may be a private landlord.
If you cannot reach agreement with the person causing the noise nuisance, you could try mediation - try Mediation UK for details of services in your area.
If step 1 fails to resolve the problem, the second step is to contact the Environmental Health Officer at your local Council. They are required by law to investigate noise nuisance complaints for most types of noise (aircraft, railways and normal traffic noise are excluded).
If the noise is not audible all the time, or if it varies in loudness, the Council will often ask you to make a record of dates and times when the noise nuisance starts and stops, plus comments on the character and severity of the noise. The next step is usually for the Environmental Health Officer to visit your property. However if the noise is infrequent, before they will agree to a visit, some Councils will ask you to make and send them a record of noise events (as described above) covering a period of at least 2 weeks.
In assessing the noise nuisance, they will consider its loudness, when and how often the noise occurs, the character of the noise and the likely reaction to the noise of an average, reasonable person.
If they agree that the noise is sufficiently severe to constitute a nuisance, the Environmental Health Officer will contact the company, business or person causing the nuisance and ask them to reduce noise levels. If the nuisance continues and the Environmental Health Officer considers that the noise is loud enough to constitute a statutory nuisance, they will usually issue a Noise Abatement Notice requiring that a noise reduction solution is implemented.
This is a legal notice that usually states a time limit for a noise solution to be implemented and it may also state the amount of noise reduction needed. Failure to comply with a Noise Abatement Notice can result in legal action being taken against the person or company causing the noise nuisance, including imposing fines. The level of fine varies with the activity. At the time of writing, a fine of up to £20,000 can be imposed for industrial and business premises. The use of machines can be prohibited or in the case of small items of equipment, they can be confiscated.
Issuing a Noise Abatement Notice usually quickly resolves the noise nuisance problem.
If the Environmental Health Officer does not consider that the noise is bad enough to constitute a statutory nuisance, the outcome is much less certain. You could ask him / her to check whether the noise and use of the premises conforms to its planning permission. If it does not, the local Council can use this to enforce a reduction in the noise - sometimes, conditions relating to noise are inserted into planning requirements.
Many industrial companies want to be good neighbours and will reduce noise levels even where an Environmental Health Officer does not consider the noise loud enough for them to issue a Noise Abatement Notice.
For industrial and business companies, best practicable means is a defence. This means that if they can prove the noise has been reduced as far as reasonably practicable, the Environmental Health Officer cannot force them to reduce it any more. This recognises that in some cases, technical limitations can prevent the noise being reduced further. We have some unusual industrial noise solutions that use advanced technology to produce a higher noise reduction than achieved by many common noise control solutions. This means that we can sometimes reduce noise levels in cases where other experts have declared that no further noise reduction is reasonably practicable. This situation arises because many people are unaware of our high technology noise solutions and the fact that they can provide unusually high noise reductions.
For night time noise emitted from buildings where people live (including gardens), plus pubs, clubs and loudspeaker noise, Environmental Health Officers have additional powers. They can investigate, serve a warning notice, impose fines, confiscate noisy equipment or prosecute offenders. Some Councils provide a night time service where they answer a telephone at night (this may be a different phone number than the daytime one), and they can investigate and take action to reduce the noise on the same night that the nuisance occurs.
If the two above steps fail to solve the noise problem, you could take legal action yourself. It is relatively rare for people to take this step. However, it is an option if both the previous steps have failed.
You can complain directly to a Magistrates court. Alternatively, you can take civil action under common law by seeking an injunction to stop the noise nuisance and / or you can claim damages.
A complaint to a Magistrates Court is usually based on section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act. The process is relatively simple and need not cost much. You do not need to employ a solicitor, but it is advisable to get professional legal advice before you start the process. The Clerk of the Court may give you some advice and guidance if you do not use a solicitor to represent you in Court.
Before taking legal action, write to the person of company causing the noise nuisance and ask them to stop the noise or reduce it to a reasonable level. State that if the noise is not reduced satisfactorily within a certain time period, you will take legal action. Give a reasonable time period. Keep a copy of the letter. You will also need a record of times and dates when the noise nuisance started and stopped, together with your comments on the severity of the noise and the disturbance it caused (e.g. it kept me awake). This record must cover a reasonably long time period - enough to provide sufficient evidence that the noise constitutes a substantial nuisance.
If legal action is successful, a court can make an order requiring the noise nuisance to be abated and prohibiting a repeat of the nuisance. They can also impose fines. If the case is successful, they will usually award you the costs you incurred in bringing the case. If the case is not successful, you normally have to pay the costs incurred by you and any witnesses. You may also have to pay the costs of the other party, including their legal costs.
An alternative to complaining direct to a Magistrate's Court is to take civil action. This can be very expensive, so first seek advice from the Citizen's Advice Bureau and a solicitor, and obtain costings in advance.
We have a range of rare and unusual solutions for industrial noise that can provide a higher noise reduction than common types of noise solution. This means that our solutions can resolve noise nuisance problems in cases where other types of noise control solution have failed or where they cannot provide enough noise reduction. The higher the noise reduction achieved, the likelier it is that the noise nuisance problem will be solved. So it is usually in the best interests of both the company causing the noise nuisance and the people affected by the noise if a solution is adopted that provides the highest practicable noise reduction.
We normally work for the companies that are causing the noise nuisance, and do not usually work for individuals. So, if the noise nuisance is caused by a company, please recommend us to them.
We only work on noise caused by industrial or commercial companies. We do not work on noise generated by domestic residents or individuals such as noisy neighbours, dogs barking etc.
One common myth is that planting trees or shrubs on a garden boundary will reduce the noise transmitted into the garden and house. But it would be necessary to plant about a 100 metre wide band of dense shrubs / trees just to make the sound appear approximately half as loud. Planting a few shrubs or trees will have no effect on the noise at all.
There is no set noise limit for noise nuisance from factories and commercial businesses. Instead, the nuisance is normally assessed relative to the background noise. The noise is measured with the annoying sound present. The measurement is repeated with the annoying sound switched off - this is called the background noise. These two noise levels are compared. If the noise level with the annoying sound present exceeds the background noise by 10 decibels (dBA) or more, this is usually considered to constitute a statutory nuisance and is usually sufficient evidence for the Environmental Health Officer to issue a Noise Abatement Notice. See above for details of what a Noise Abatement Notice is.
Note: our legal disclaimer applies to all the information on this page. Click on legal disclaimer for details.