The Committee will have before it a report to explain the extent of noise nuisance reports and whether or not these are increasing, the response to such reports and the outcomes in the forms of advice, seizure of equipment, reviews of licences, enforcement notices and prosecution of offenders.
It was reported to the Committee that noise nuisance was enforced by the Environmental Protection Team which sat within the Housing and Environment Department and was primarily enforced in terms of statutory nuisance via the Environmental Protection Act 1990 which gave powers to investigate, serve notice and take enforcement action including prosecution and seizure of equipment.
The powers to enforce noise nuisance were provided by the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and those also provided the powers for investigation of noise nuisance and right through to prosecution and seizure of equipment.
The basic enforcement process was as follows:
· Complaint received and triaged to see if it was valid for investigation.
· Witness Report Form sent to complainant to record times and duration of noise and the effect it had on the complainant.
· Letter sent to potential perpetrator informing them of complaint and that it would be investigated.
· Following return of Witness Report Form referred on for further investigation or complainant informed of no further action.
· Installation of noise monitoring equipment and/or officer visits to establish if noise nuisance existed.
· If a noise nuisance had existed a notice may have been served requiring remedial action.
· Failure to comply with the notice may have resulted in prosecution of the offender.
Types of noise
Members heard that noise could be from a number of different sources which could include the playing of loud music, animals such as barking dogs or cockerels crowing, industrial noise from processes, event noise etc.
Noise associated with normal daily living would not constitute a nuisance and industrial noise could use the defence of best practicable means whereby if the business was using current best practice no action could be taken against them.
Determination of a noise nuisance
The Committee was informed that the noise nuisance was not just determined on the level of noise but on a number of other factors as well which would include duration of the noise, the type of noise, time of day and the effect on a normal individual. There was also a distinction between what an individual may find annoying and what may constitute a statutory nuisance under the legislation.
Effects of Covid- 19
It was reported to members that in terms of noise nuisance enforcement two significant changes had occurred during the period of Covid- 19. Initially complaints dropped off in the early stages of lockdown, however as people spent more time at home they were more aware of noise created by neighbours and the number of complaints rose considerably.
The installation of noise monitoring equipment was suspended to ensure the safety of officers and complainants as that involved entering people’s properties and installing equipment which had to be handled both by officers and the complainant.
That had restricted noise enforcement activity although for significant cases officers had been visiting sites to determine if a noise nuisance was present.
The table below identified the number of complaints received and enforcement actions
Type of noise 2017 2018 2019 Jan-Aug 2020
Animals 91 71 48 39
Construction Noise 2 5 0 11
Mechanical (e.g. DIY) 18 21 9 19
Amplified Music 56 56 38 97
Totals of above 167 153 95 166
All noise total 225 192 130 198
Notices Served 3 1 2 1
Prosecution 1 0 0 0
(The “all noise” total included all types of noise complaint for example commercial premises, agricultural, ice cream vans, fireworks and other non-classified noise and generally there were less than 10 instances of each of those)
Key points noted were the very significant increase in noise complaints in the period January to August 2020 and that was heavily focussed around amplified music which was associated with more people being in their properties during the lockdown period. There was also an increase in mechanical noise which includes for example DIY which would also be expected with people being in their properties more although the increase was not to the same extent as amplified music.
The prime activity around noise was advice. That would include to the complainant if their complaint was not likely to constitute a nuisance. More importantly advising a potential perpetrator that they were causing a noise may result in amended behaviour or advice could be given about remedial action that could be taken which resolved the potential nuisance.
No cases of seizure equipment had been undertaken in the last year. That power would be used where there was ongoing excessive nuisance which constitutes a statutory nuisance with notices served which had expired and where there was no engagement with the Council but instead ongoing non-compliance. That would routinely be associated with very significant antisocial behaviour.
Environmental Health was a statutory consultee under the Licensing Act 2003. If a statutory nuisance was determined then it was possible to object to future Temporary Event Notices. There had been no instances where objections had been raised in the last year because no statutory nuisances had been determined for sites which had Temporary Event Notices.
The last prosecution for non-compliance with a notice was in 2017 and related to cockerels in an urban area with crowing starting as early as 4am. The outcome of that case was that the owner finally decided not to keep the cockerels and therefore removed the cause of the nuisance.
The Committee AGREED to note the report.