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
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