Noise affects health and enjoyment. The Council has a duty to see that citizens can enjoy peace and quiet. Complaints can be monitored with sophisticated tape recorders and assessed later at a special laboratory in the Council House. Legal action can be taken including confiscation of equipment and fines up to £5,000 for domestic and £20,000 for businesses. Other action includes the disconnection of sounding burgular alarms that do not meet the Code of Practice standards. The costs involved are recharged to the owners/occupiers.
What noise legislation is there? This is a summary of the main Acts of Parliament relating to noise in England. This list is not necessarily comprehensive. The Environmental Protection Act 1990 This Act provides the principal controls over statutory nuisance, including noise nuisances, whether arsing from industrial, leisure or domestic activities. By virtue of the Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act 1993, it also applies to nuisances arsing from vehicles (e.g. car alarms but not traffic), machinery and other equipment such as loudspeakers, in the street. Under the 1990 Act, local authorities have a duty to inspect their areas from time to time to detect nuisance and, when satisfied that one exists or is likely to occur or recur, to serve a noise abatement notice on the persons responsible. They also have a duty to investigate any complaint made by a person living within their area. Through businesses have a defence of 'best practical means', failure to comply with a Notice is a criminal offence. Local authorities have a power of entry to private premises, power to seize noise making equipment and powers to carry out works in default of Notices. The following is a brief summary of the principal current noise controls: The Late Night Refreshment Houses Act 1969 This Act provides for local authorities to impose restrictions on the opening hours of late night refreshment houses in order to avoid unreasonable disturbances to local residents. The Land Compensation Act 1973 and the Noise Insulation Regulations 1975 and 1996 This Act and the Regulations made under it allow for grants to be made towards the cost of sound insulation in premises subjected to noise from new roads or railways. It cannot be applied retrospectively but may be useful where existing roads or railways are upgraded with the result that noise levels exceed stated thresholds. The Control of Pollution Act 1974 (COPA) This Act contains powers for local authorities to deal with noise and vibration from construction and demolition sites. It also contains powers concerning the use of loudspeakers in the street, together with powers for the Secretary of State to approve Codes of Practice for the minimisation of noise. Codes currently exist for audible intruder alarms, ice cream van chimes, model aircraft and construction noise and these may be used in evidence in legal proceedings. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 & Noise at Work Regulations 1989 Though aimed primarily at the protection of workers, this Act also places a duty on the employer to conduct their businesses so as to ensure that others too are not exposed to risks to their health. This can include risks arsing to the public at large from noisy work activities. The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 This Act empowers local authorities outside London to require venues used for public entertainment to obtain a license. The grant of such a licence may be subject to conditions as to noise. Similar provisions apply on London under the London Government Act 1963. The Town and Country Planning Act 1990 This Act is aimed at prevention rather than control and requires local authorities to draw up strategic local plans to reconcile the conflicts inherent in development. It permits conditions to be attached to planning consents which may include controls on the emission of noise and gives a basis for protecting tranquil areas. Advice on the use of these powers is given to authorities in Planning Policy Guidance note 24. This document recommends maximum noise exposure levels for new residential developments near major noise sources. The London Local Authorities Act 1991 and 1996 Together these Acts provide an accelerated procedure (for those London Boroughs which adopt it) to deal with noise from burglar alarms. The first also places certain duties on owners of alarms, including to notify details of two key holders to the Police. The Noise Act 1996 (amended by Anti Social Behaviour Act 2003) Under the Noise Act 1996 Local Authorities must serve a warning notice between the hours of 11pm and 7am at a premises where excessive noise is being emitted and if it were measured from within the complainant's dwelling, would or might exceed the permitted level. The permitted level is to be a level applicable to noise as measured from within any other dwelling in the vicinity by an approved device used in accordance with any conditions subject to which the approval was given. Different permitted levels may be determined for different circumstances, and the permitted level may be determined partly by reference to other levels of noise. A person is guilty of an offence if the warning notice is not complied with. A person guilty of an offence is liable on summary conviction not exceeding level 3. Officers may give that person the opportunity of discharging any liability to conviction for that offence by payment of a fixed penalty, currently £100. An officer of the local authority may enter the dwelling from which the noise in question is being or has been emitted and may seize and remove any equipment which it appears is being or has been used in the emission of the noise. The Housing Act 1996 and the Crime and disorder Act 1998 These Acts both provide powers to deal with anti-social behaviour which may include creating undue noise. The Pollution Prevention and Control Act 1999 This Act gives powers to both local authorities and the Environmental Agency to control environmental emissions from many industrial processes through a system of prior consents. Among the emissions which may be controlled in this way is noise. The Building Regulations 2000 These govern standards for construction of new buildings and major conversions. Approved document E requires that the construction meets defined sound insulation standards. The Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 This Act amends the Licensing Act of 1964 to empower the Police summarily to close a licensed premises, which is causing a disturbance to the public by reason of the emission of excessive noise where closure is necessary to prevent it. Anti Social Behaviour Act 2003 Section 40 allows for the closure of noisy premises where a public nuisance is being caused and the closure of the premises is necessary to prevent that nuisance. The applies to licensed premises. Section 42 amends the Noise Act 1996 no longer requiring Local Authorities to adopt the Act, but they may if they receive a complaint arrange for an officer of the authority to take reasonable steps to investigate the complaint.
Firework Act 2003 The Act makes provision for the Secretary of State to make regulations ("fireworks regulations") which are intended to regulate the supply and use of fireworks. Employers are required under both the present and proposed regulations to:-
At the moment the current regulations are as follows:-
- Carryout a risk assessment with the view of reducing noise to its lowest practical level.
- The assessments of employee noise exposure should be made by a "competent person". That is to say someone who has undergone the required training.
- Assessment records have to be kept to comply with the regulations.
The regulations which are proposed to come in force in 2005 from the EU will be as follows:-
- If an employee is subjected to a noise level of below 85dB(A) over an eight hour period at work then no action need be taken and the provision of hearing protection is not legally necessary.
- If an employee is subjected to a noise level above 85dB(A) but below 90dB(A) over an eight hour period at work then the employer must ensure that hearing protection is provided.
- If an employee is subjected to a noise level above 90dB(A) over an eight hour period at work then not only must the employer provide but enforce the wearing of hearing protection but the employer must take all possible steps to reduce the exposure of the employee by all practical means.
The above notes are for guidance only and for exact details please consult the "Noise at Work Regulations". www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg75l.htm.
- If an employee is subjected to a noise level of below 80dB(A) over an eight hour period at work then no action need be taken and the provision of hearing protection is not legally necessary.
- If an employee is subjected to a noise level above 80dB(A) but below 85dB(A) over an eight hour period at work then the employer must ensure that hearing protection is provided.
- If an employee is subjected to a noise level above 85dB(A) over an eight hour period at work then not only must the employer provide but enforce the wearing of hearing protection but the employer must take all possible steps to reduce the exposure of the employee by all practical means.