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Noise nuisance

Dog barking complaint

Isolated barking dog complaints are no longer routinely investigated by the Environmental Protection Team, however dogs must not be left alone for long periods of time and in situations where a dog is being neglected and this results in excessive, prolonged disturbance to neighbours, owners may be subject to legal action under our noise nuisance powers. The Dog Warden service has produced comprehensive advice on avoiding excessive dog barking, please see our dedicated Dog Barking Advice Page.

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Domestic noise complaint procedure

Wiltshire Council’s Environmental Protection Department receive around 3000 complaints about noise every year.   The most common noise complaints relate to:

  • The playing of loud music
  • Antisocial behaviour
  • Barking dogs
  • Intruder alarms
  • DIY

We also receive complaints about noise from commercial and industrial sources.  However a sound being audible in your home does not automatically make it a statutory nuisance and it should not be assumed that it can be resolved by council intervention.

Sound being audible in your home may be an annoyance to you however it does not automatically make it a statutory nuisance and it should not be assumed that it can be resolved by council intervention.

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If you are someone who is planning a party or carrying out any DIY or anything else that may disrupt your neighbours then it is strongly recommended that you let them know well in advance of your intentions. Take all reasonable steps to minimise any potential disruption for example:

  • Control the volume of music even during the day, tastes in music vary and not everyone may share your enthusiasm for your music.
  • Control the bass level; low frequencies are transmitted further and through structures.
  • Keep music levels lower after 11pm and not audible outside the property.
  • Avoid playing loud music outside
  • Avoid noisy DIY activities in the evenings, Sundays or bank holidays when others may want to relax.
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A statutory noise nuisance is determined under the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The legal definition of what constitutes a statutory nuisance is complex and based on many years of case law.

We need to consider the following key factors when investigating a noise nuisance:

  • There must be a material interference with the enjoyment and use of the complainant’s property.  The noise must therefore be considerable.
  • The noise must substantially affect the enjoyment of comfortable living, such as loss of sleep, interfering with conversation or watching television.  However there would have to be consideration of the time the noise occurs, the intensity of the noise, its character and its duration.
  • Isolated acts, unless extreme, would not be considered to be a nuisance, for example ‘one- off’ parties. The problem must normally be continuous or frequent.
  • Trivial, harassing or repetitious (vexatious) complaints will not be taken into account.
  • Any assessment of whether a particular problem amounts to a statutory nuisance is made from the perspective of an ordinary reasonable person.  This means that the council must exclude any personal circumstances or sensitivities of the complainant from our considerations when assessing nuisance.
  • Factors such as unusual shift patterns, medical conditions or other sensitivities of the complainant cannot be taken into account when we decide whether a particular problem is causing a statutory nuisance.

It is a person’s basic right to use and enjoy their property. However, there is no right to tranquillity or silence.

The following list outlines some of the common complaints we receive, but cannot deal with under the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

  • Household noise, for example, shutting doors, walking up and down stairs, children playing, flushing toilets, noise between flats where there is poor insluation or laminated floors have been installed and so on.
  • If your complaint is in relation to anti-social behaviour such as shouting, arguments, swearing, verbal abuse, the authority has a dedicated anti-social behaviour team.
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When a person first contacts Wiltshire Council with a domestic noise complaint by telephone, the complainant’s details and the nature of the complaint are taken by our Customer Service Team. The Customer Service Officer will provide details of this procedure. Alternatively you may email or make an enquiry via the website. This procedure will commence within 5 working days of your initial contact.

Information and evidence gathering

  1. The Council will write to you to confirm we have received your complaint and to ask you to complete a noise nuisance log sheet for two weeks and then return it to us. If you do not feel this time period is representative of the noise experienced then we would advise that you contact the investigating officer for further advice.  The nuisance log sheets are very important and the Council will not take any further action unless it has received completed nuisance log sheets from you. If the log is not returned without a reasonable explanation within 21 days the complaint will be closed.
  2. Once we have received your log sheets a member the case officer will assess them and contact you to discuss what will happen next.
  3. If the incidents of noise you have noted warrant further investigation we will write to your neighbour to inform them that a complaint has been made and to tell them about our procedures. At this stage your neighbour is not informed who has made the complaint. However, in the minority of cases where the Council needs to take enforcement action they will be informed who has made the complaint against them and you will be expected to give evidence to a Court to support your complaint.
  4. If further investigation is needed the case officer will consider a monitoring program based on the information provided.  Where possible, an officer may undertake programmed visits to the area for the purpose of substantiating your complaint. Alternatively, it may be necessary to install noise recording equipment within your premises.
  5. Visits: Officers will usually undertake a maximum of three visits to substantiate your complaint.  If after the three visits no noise nuisance has been established, the council will close the investigation.
  6. Recording equipment: There is usually a waiting list for the allocation of recording equipment, and officers will prioritise within the resources available, based on the evidence already collected. When available, the noise recording equipment will be left at the complainant’s property, for a period of up to 7 days, or as seen appropriate by the investigating officer.  It is important to note that equipment is normally located inside a dwelling in a habitable room such as a main bedroom or living room.  The complainant’s co-operation will be required to trigger the recording equipment as and when the noise nuisance is occurring.  This will involve pressing a button when the noise nuisance occurs.  Officers will issue advice and guidance when the equipment is installed.  It is important that any advice or instruction given by the Officer is adhered to so that any evidence collected is not jeopardised or corrupted.  If the evidence is used by the authority in any formal action then we would require a witness statement from the person operating the equipment to authenticate the evidence. The equipment will be installed on a maximum of two occasions. If no nuisance has been established through monitoring on these two occasions the council will close the investigation.
  7. Assessment of evidence: Upon the return of the equipment the collected data will be analysed to assess whether a statutory nuisance has occurred. On completion of the assessment, the complainant will be advised of the results, and the way forward. The time involved in this stage of the investigation can vary, depending on the complexity of the complaint.  It is necessary on occasions to analyse a significant amount of data, both audio and statistical, especially in the more complex cases.
  8. Enforcement: If appropriate
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Whilst the council does not have a duty to offer an out of hours noise service an emergency service is offered for specific noise issues.

The service is accessed by telephoning 0300 456 0100 and following the option for environmental health emergencies.

Duty officers will only respond to specific types of noise complaint that are classed as emergencies. These are:

• Cases where legal action is, or about to be taken
• Externally sounding intruder alarms
• Where a police officer requests assistance

All other calls which do not meet these criteria are logged, recorded and responded to on the following day.

Duty Officers are available to respond to emergency noise complaints from 17:30 to 01:00 weekdays and from 08:30 until 01:00 on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays.

Duty Officers will not respond to one off parties or festival events, unless asked by the police to attend in support.

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Commercial and industrial noise complaints

When a person first contacts Wiltshire Council with a complaint about commercial or industrial noise, the complainant’s details and the nature of the complaint are taken by our Customer Service Team. You will be contacted by a member of the Environmental Control and Protection Team within 5 working days.

The investigation procedure will depend on the circumstances of the complaint. It may be beneficial for the investigating officer to visit to listen to the noise before contacting the business. Alternatively the officer may contact the business concerned to make them aware that a complaint has been made about noise coming from their business without informing them who has made the complaint.

Information and evidence gathering

  1. As part of the investigation process you may be asked to gather evidence through completing log sheets. Officers may also gather evidence through visits and the use of recording equipment.
  2. Visits: Officers will usually undertake a maximum of three visits to substantiate your complaint.  If after the three visits no noise nuisance has been established, the council will close the investigation.
  3. Recording equipment: There is usually a waiting list for the allocation of recording equipment, and officers will prioritise within the resources available, based on the evidence already collected. When available, the noise recording equipment will be left at the complainant’s property, for a period of up to 7 days, or as seen appropriate by the investigating officer.  It is important to note that equipment is normally located inside a dwelling in a habitable room such as a main bedroom or living room.  The complainant’s co-operation will be required to trigger the recording equipment as and when the noise nuisance is occurring.  This will involve pressing a button when the noise nuisance occurs.  Officers will issue advice and guidance when the equipment is installed.  It is important that any advice or instruction given by the Officer is adhered to so that any evidence collected is not jeopardised or corrupted.  If the evidence is used by the authority in any formal action then we would require a witness statement from the person operating the equipment to authenticate the evidence. The equipment will be installed on a maximum of two occasions. If no nuisance has been established through monitoring on these two occasions the council will close the investigation.
  4. Assessment of evidence: Upon the return of the equipment the collected data will be analysed to assess whether a statutory nuisance has occurred. On completion of the assessment, the complainant will be advised of the results, and the way forward. The time involved in this stage of the investigation can vary, depending on the complexity of the complaint.  It is necessary on occasions to analyse a significant amount of data, both audio and statistical, especially in the more complex cases
  5. Enforcement: If appropriate
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Enforcement

Having considered all the evidence, this investigation will result in one of the following courses of action:

a) No further action if no nuisance is substantiated

b) Informal advice

c) Service of formal statutory notice to abate the nuisance

If an abatement notice is served and not complied with legal action may be taken through the Courts.
Enforcement will be carried out in accordance with Public Protection Enforcement Policy.

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Action by a private individual

There may be instances where an individual decides they wish to pursue their own action independently of the council.

Information about out to do this can be found on the How to take your own legal action page.

Other noise sources

By law, Environmental Health is unable to take any action concerning these noise sources. However, there are some authorities who may be able to help. Some useful contact details are below.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority

Making a complaint

02073 797311

aree@caa.co.uk

You may also wish to contact the airfield you belive is associated with the aircraft noise as they often have their own procedures for recording and investigating specific noise complaints.

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Highways Agency (motorways and A roads)
ha_info@highways.gsi.gov.uk
0300 123 5000

Wiltshire Council (roads and associated works not covered by the Highways Agency)
Report on-line

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Ministry of Defence Air Staff
Complaints and Enquiries Unit
Level 5, Zone H Main Building Whitehall
London SW1A 2HB

0207 218 6020

lowflying@mod.uk

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Contact the military base or range where the noise is originating as they often have their own procedures for handling and investigating complaints.

Lark Hill Ranges
01980 620819

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Last updated: 11 August 2017 | Last reviewed: 11 August 2017