Noise Control

 In most cases noise complaints are investigated under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011, however, in some cases legislation specific to the source applies. If the Council’s investigation into an alleged noise disturbance indicates that a Nuisance is being caused, the Council may take formal action against the person causing the noise or the owner of the property/land. This would normally be in the form of an abatement notice requiring the conditions causing the nuisance to be stopped or the noise reduced in level.

Noise is normally defined as unwanted sound; it can therefore be subjective i.e. “I am just enjoying listening to my music” vs “You are creating an unbearable racket!!”. It is an unavoidable part of everyday life, as wherever we live we find ourselves experiencing different sounds and noise. We must therefore accept that there will be a certain amount of noise in our daily lives. Noise becomes a problem when the person experiencing it can no longer tolerate it.  People will react to noise in different ways, what can cause extreme annoyance to one person, may hardly be noticed by another.

The Environmental Health, Protection and Development Service of the Council investigate noise complaints arising from and being experienced in both domestic and commercial premises. 

What is a Noise Nuisance?

Each complaint is different, and as part of our investigation we consider many different aspects of noise when assessing if a Nuisance exists, including:

  • The level of the noise
  • The background sound level – the noise level when the noise being complained of is not occurring.
  • The time when the noise occurs
  • How often it occurs
  • The character of the local area e.g. mainly residential, mixed industrial use etc.
  • The effect that it has on the complainant
  • The effect that it would have on an ‘average’ person.
  • Industry Codes of Practice, British Standards, Guidance Notes and Case Law and other Legislation relating to noise.

How does the Council Investigate a Noise Complaint?

Many noise complaints can be resolved informally. The source of the noise might not be aware they are causing disturbance. If you feel you can speak to the source of the noise, try talking to them, calmly explain to them the situation and how the noise is affecting you.

If this doesn’t work, or you don’t feel comfortable talking to your neighbour, you can contact the Environmental Health, Protection and Development Service to make a complaint.

Telephone 0300 013 3333

Email enquiries@ardsandnorthdown.gov.uk

Online Enquiry Form

You will be asked for your name, address and contact phone number. We are unable to investigate anonymous complaints as we will need to assess the noise being experienced in your property.   We will not release your details unless required to do so as part of formal action, for example serving a Noise Abatement Notice or listing Court Proceedings.

Following the receipt of your complaint, the Council will contact the person alleged to be causing the noise and give them an opportunity to prevent or limit the noise problem. If this is unsuccessful, the Council will proceed with a formal investigation. You will probably have to complete a diary style noise monitoring form. If your information indicates that that a noise nuisance may exist, then officers from the Council will attempt to gather evidence, either through a personal visit or by setting up noise monitoring equipment in your home to record and measure the noise.

If the Council is satisfied that a Noise Nuisance exists we must take action, this can either involve speaking with the source to allow them a limited period of time to abate the nuisance or if this has no effect we will serve a Noise Abatement Notice on the person responsible for the noise.  The breaching of an abatement notice is a criminal offence. For domestic premises the maximum fine in a Magistrates Court for breaching a Notice is £5,000, with a further fine of £50 for each day on which the offence continues after a conviction. For business, industrial or trade premises the maximum fine is £20,000

The main types of Noise Complaint we receive are about:

Domestic Noise such as loud music, parties, DIY etc.

Common domestic noise complaints include loud music and TV, DIY work and parties.

If you are concerned about the noise levels from a neighbouring property, the best course of action is normally to approach the neighbour about the problem. They may not be aware they are causing a disturbance and can take steps to remove or reduce the noise problems.

If this doesn’t work, or you don’t feel comfortable talking to your neighbour, you can contact the Environmental Health, Protection and Development Service to make a complaint.

If you are a Housing Executive tenant, you could also contact your Housing officer.

 










 

Dog Barking

Complaints about Dog Barking are initially dealt with by the Neighbourhood Environment Team.

https://www.ardsandnorthdown.gov.uk/resident/pets-pests-and-pollution/dog-control/barking-dogs

Our officers’ are skilled and knowledgeable in how dogs should be kept. Following their advice can often resolve complaints without recourse to formal action.

Construction Noise

A certain amount of noise is expected from construction and building operations, which can rarely be prevented, but can be disturbing.

As a guideline we would suggest that noisy operations on building sites should be restricted to Monday to Friday - 8am to 6pm and Saturday 9am to 1pm and no noisy operations on a Sunday. Our guidelines are brought to contractors’ attention if complaints are made, however, for enforcement purposes we would normally refer to the relevant British Standard from construction type noises. Unfortunately, this is more permissive in terms of the times it allows noisier work to take place. 

Contractors planning to undertake construction or demolition work can consult the Environmental Health, Protection and Development Service before proceeding. Further information is available by downloading the construction site noise advice leaflet.

Code of Practice to Reduce the Likelihood of Nuisances Arising from Small Scale Building Sites 

Bird Scarers

Also known as “bangers” and “gas guns”, these are devices that farmers use to protect crops from the unwanted attention of birds. Although considered to be an essential aid to deterring birds, if they are used inconsiderately the noise can be both ineffective in disturbing birds and extremely annoying to local residents and as such, could potentially be a statutory noise nuisance.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) has issued advice to farmers using these devices, to try and avoid causing nuisance.

Further information is available by downloading the NFU advice leaflet found at;

www.nfuonline.com/news/latest-news/download-our-bird-scarers-code-of-practice/ .

If a complaint is received regarding noise from a bird scarer, the Environmental Health, Protection and Development Service will try and identify the land upon which it is situated and trace the owner. The time taken in dealing with such a complaint will be reduced if these details are known when the problem is reported.

In past complaint investigations it is generally been found that the timer on the scarer has malfunctioned or set to fire too often, causing excessive numbers of ‘bangs’. The farmer can usually rectify these faults quickly and easily.  Difficulties can however, arise if we are unable to find the position of the scarer or the owner of the device.

Alarms

Intruder Alarms

Intruder alarms are an effective way of protecting properties if they are installed correctly and properly maintained. Alarms sounding for prolonged periods, sounding frequently or during night time hours can be disturbing. The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environmental Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 provides the Council with powers to deal with noisy intruder alarms if:

  • The alarm has been sounding continuously for more than 20 minutes or intermittently for more than one hour
  • The sounding of the alarm is likely to give persons living or working in the vicinity of the premises reasonable cause of annoyance
  • The premises are in an alarm notification area, and that reasonable steps have been taken to get the nominated key-holder to silence the alarm.

The Council may also recover the costs from the person responsible if we need to enter the premises, silence the alarm and re-secure the property.

Alarm owners should do the following to avoid causing a nuisance: Alarm systems should be properly designed, installed and maintained.  Equipment which has proved unreliable or ineffective should be replaced.

Commercial intruder alarms should be maintained in good order and serviced under contract with an alarm company.

Audible intruder alarms should be fitted with an automatic cut-out device, which stops the ringing after 20 minutes from activation of the system. A cut-out device can be supplemented with a flashing light which continues to operate after the ringing has ceased. 

Other Alarms.

We also receive complaints about smoke alarms that have run out of battery and electricity and gas meters that have run out of credit. In these cases, we try to identify and contact the owner and ask that they take appropriate action to stop the alarm or meter sounding. We may also take action to address the noise if it found to be a nuisance.

Noise from Entertainment Premises

Premises providing certain types of Entertainment are required to have an Entertainment licence. These are issued by the Council’s Licencing and Regulatory Services department.

If you have a complaint regarding noise from an Entertainment Premises please contact the Council’s Licencing and Regulatory Service on 0300 013 3333.

Commercial and Industrial Noise

Noise from commercial or industrial premises can disturb people living and working nearby, particularly at night time.

An investigation into noise disturbance from this type of premises may include; making contact with the business; the complainant completing record sheets detailing when the noise is occurring; and noise monitoring being carried out at the complainant’s home.

We may also liaise with the Council’s Planning Service to check if any planning conditions are in place and if they are potentially being breached. 

If the Service is satisfied that a nuisance is occurring, we can issue the owner with a noise abatement notice which will allow the owner a set time period within which to reduce the noise.

Failure to comply with a noise abatement notice is a criminal offence however, owners of these types of premises may defend themselves by demonstrating to the Court that they are doing all that they can reasonably afford to or are able to do to prevent the nuisance.

Vehicles, Aircraft Machinery and Equipment

We can investigate noise complaints about noise coming from a vehicle, machinery and equipment in the street. If a noise nuisance exists, the Council can serve a noise abatement notice on the person responsible. Failure to comply with a noise abatement notice is an offence.

Council is however not responsible for the investigation of general traffic noise from vehicles travelling on the roads. Complaints about the condition of individual vehicles e.g. excessively loud exhausts should be referred to the Police Service.

Noise from scramblers or quad bikes can be disturbing for nearby residents. Noise from these bikes can travel a considerable distance and be very intrusive. In addition, the bikes are generally used in good weather when neighbours want to enjoy their garden. 

Scramblers and quad bikes are off-road vehicles that can only be used on private land with permission of the land owner. A noise nuisance can be caused even if the person has the landowner’s permission.

The Council can take action against the person using the bike as well as the landowner.

On receipt of a complaint, the Council will contact the landowner and give them advice on how to prevent or limit the noise problem. You may be asked to complete a noise monitoring form. If the forms are returned and it shows that a noise nuisance may exist, then we will attempt to gather evidence, either through a personal visit or by setting up noise monitoring equipment at your home to record and measure the noise.

If the Council is satisfied that a Noise Nuisance exists we can serve a Noise Abatement Notice on the land owner and/or the person using the bike.

Landowners who have not given their permission for their land to be used by these bikes can take steps to prevent access to their land, including:

  • Securing all points of access to the land
  • Erecting signs prohibiting trespass and the use of motorcycles
  • Visiting the land at times when it is being used to advise those responsible for the nuisance that such use of the land is not permitted
  • In some cases, having the land ploughed has discouraged use

The Council has no legal powers to deal with complaints about noise caused by civil or military aircraft. This includes noise from flights in to and out of Newtownards Airfield and George Best Belfast City Airport, any military planes, helicopters or other low-flying aircraft.

Complaints can be made to the following organisations:

George Best Belfast City Airport – 02890 935020 www.belfastcityairport.com/contactus
Ulster Flying Club (Newtownards Airfield) – 02891 813327
Department for Regional Development - Ports and Public Transport Division – 02890 540540 www.drdni.gov.uk
Civil Aviation Authority – 020 73797311 www.caa.co.uk

Ice Cream Vans

It is an offence to sound your chimes before 12.00 noon or after 7.00 pm. It is also an offence to sound your chimes in such a way as to give reasonable cause for annoyance.

A code of practice approved by the Government gives guidance on methods of minimising annoyance caused by ice-cream chimes. The main points of the code of practice are:

Do not sound chimes:

1. for longer than 4 seconds at a time;

2. more often than once every 3 minutes;

3. when the vehicle is stationary;

4. except on approach to a selling point;

5. when in sight of another vehicle which is trading;

6. when within 50 metres of schools (during school hours), hospitals, and places of worship (on Sundays and other recognised day of worship);

7. more often than once every 2 hours in the same length of street;

8. louder than 80 dB(A) at 7.5 metres;

9. as loudly in quiet areas or narrow streets as elsewhere.

Following a complaint, we will contact the business owner and provide advice on the code of practice, if this has no effect in resolving the complaint we will usually commence a formal noise complaint investigation.

Other Noise

The Environmental Health, Protection and Development Service receive various noise complaints, not all of which can be covered on the website. If you have a noise complaint that is not covered on this site; please contact the Service on 0300 013 3333 [INSERT EXTENSION NUMBER] and an officer will be able to provide advice.