Noise pollution is defined as unwanted sound and can cause disruption, annoyance and stress. A noise nuisance may be continuous or intermittent and can happen during the day or night, but it must be unreasonable and have a substantial interference with the use or enjoyment of you at your home.
Noise problems can come from many different sources including:
- domestic noise from DIY, car repairs, loud televisions and music systems
- barking dogs
- loud music from a bar or a club
- noise from a factory or other business premise
- construction site noise
The council has a legal duty to investigate complaints of statutory nuisances caused by excessive noise, and we have the power to ask whoever is causing the disturbance to reduce noise levels.
It is important to remember that noise problems are not always due to inconsiderate behaviour; some homes have poor sound insulation and can’t prevent ordinary day-to-day ‘living’ noises being heard next door. The council must consider whether the noise would represent a nuisance to the “average person” and cannot take into account, for example, sleep patterns of night shift workers.
Type of noise pollution
Find out about different types of noise pollution and how to report problems.
The Fireworks Regulations 2004 prohibit anyone under 18 from possessing fireworks, and anyone except professionals from possessing display fireworks in a public place. These regulations also prohibit the use of fireworks between 11pm - 7am, with extensions to the curfew for the following festivals:
- until 01:00 on the night of the Chinese New Year
- until 01:00 on the night of Diwali
- until 01:00 on the night on New Year’s Eve
- until Midnight on 5 November
The regulations are enforced by North Yorkshire Police. There is a penalty of up to £5,000 or 6 months in prison for breach of curfew. The supply, purchase or possession of excessively loud fireworks over 120 decibels is also prohibited.
If you use a bird scarer or bird deterrent it is your responsibility to ensure you do not cause a noise nuisance. If you do cause a nuisance, we may take action against you.
For further information please see the NFU bird scarers code of practice on the NFU website.
Resolving noise pollution
Before making a formal complaint or getting others involved, try to discuss the problem with your neighbour. They may be unaware of the issue they are causing. If you are not comfortable talking to them in person, you could write a polite letter. You should keep records of your communication and give them time to respond - at least a few weeks.
If the property from where the noise originates is rented, you may wish to contact the landlord, especially if this is a social landlord. It is often a requirement of tenancy agreements not to cause nuisance. Any initial contact you make with the Council regarding noise from social landlord tenants will be referred to them to try and resolve the matter in the first instance.
However, this informal approach may not always work, or you may not feel comfortable in speaking to the person directly. In such cases, a complaint can be made to the council's Environmental Health Service.
Nuisance law requires us to determine the impact of the noise upon an individual, and as such we are unable to investigate anonymous complaints. Any anonymous complaints will be noted but not acted upon.
Report a noise problem
If you feel you've tried everything to sort things out, you can contact us to report a noise problem. Please have as much information as possible to hand before contacting us.
The council will take all reasonable steps to investigate complaints and our procedure typically involves several stages.
- A letter will be sent to the noise maker advising them of the complaint and asking them to take action to reduce the noise. We offer a confidential service and do not say who has made the complaint, however there may be situations where the noise maker may reasonably assume where a complaint has come from
- You will be asked to complete diary sheets detailing the times, date and duration of the noise. This is important because it shows the noise can be heard and that it is a significant noise problem affecting the use and enjoyment of your property. If the diary sheets are not completed and returned to us within six weeks of first making a complaint, the investigation will be closed
- The completed forms will be assessed by an officer who will consider whether the disturbance is unreasonable. They may visit when the noise is occurring, or at a time when it is likely to occur Alternatively, recording equipment may be provided to record the nuisance as it occurs
- Attempts will be made to try and resolve matters informally. We may visit and speak to all parties and will usually try to witness the noise. Visits could be arranged for times when the noise occurs to establish how severe the problem is.
We need to prove that a nuisance exists and usually take readings over a period of time, therefore complaints may take several months to be fully investigated. Generally, we would need to have evidence of serious disturbance on at least three occasions before legal notices can be served. If this does not result in sufficient evidence being gathered to substantiate a nuisance, the case may be closed. This does not preclude you from taking your own private action.
If there is evidence of a statutory noise nuisance, a noise abatement notice will be served requiring the offender to stop causing a nuisance or face further legal action. If someone breaches a notice they can prosecuted and if found guilty, receive a substantial fine. In exceptional circumstances and where appropriate, the council may exercise other powers such as the seizure of equipment e.g. stereo systems, but this will usually be where other action has not been successful.
Although very few cases reach the stage of going to court, if this does happen, a witness statement from the person who made the complaint will be very important and they may be called to give evidence at a court hearing.
Taking your own legal action
If we are unable to confirm the existence of a statutory noise nuisance and are therefore unable to take any action, we will write to you and advise that you may take your own private action.
You can make a complaint directly to the Magistrates’ Court under Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which you can view on the UK legislation website. You will need to produce evidence, including any correspondence and records of the noise. If the court is satisfied that there is sufficient evidence of a nuisance, they can make an order requiring it to be abated and prohibiting its recurrence.