ARCHIVE: Noise and nuisance: Taking action
What can you do if you are being affected by noise or other nuisance?
Consider talking to the individual or company responsible for the noise or other nuisance (including smoke, fumes, accumulations, deposits, odours etc) and highlight the problem to them. You may find that they are unaware that they are causing a disturbance or problem. Remember we may all be guilty of creating a nuisance at some time without knowing it. The problem is not always one of inconsiderate behaviour.
Taking formal action
When informal action is not possible or fails, you may resolve the problem by taking formal action. The most common route involves complaining to your local authority about the problem. Under sections 79 to 81 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 local authorities have a duty to deal with statutory nuisance, and must investigate complaints.
Who do I complain to?
If you want to make a complaint about noise or other statutory nuisance you should contact your local authority, usually the Environmental Health Department. The number will be in your local telephone directory.
Serving an abatement notice
If the local authority is satisfied that a statutory nuisance exists, is likely to occur or recur they must serve an abatement notice. This may require the activity causing the nuisance to stop altogether, or that good practice is adopted to prevent a nuisance. A notice must be served on the person responsible for the nuisance or, in certain circumstances, the owner or occupier of the premises. A person on whom an abatement notice has been served has the right of appeal within twenty-one days of it being served.
Industrial, trade and business premises, as well as relevant sports premises, may use as a defence upon appeal or against prosecution the proof that ‘best practicable means’ were used to prevent or counteract the effects of a nuisance.
Failure to comply with an abatement notice
If a person on whom an abatement notice has been served fails, without reasonable cause, to comply, s/he will have committed an offence. For offences relating to domestic premises, the magistrates’ court may impose a fine of up to £5,000 with a further fine of up to £500 for each day on which the offence continues after conviction. When the nuisance arises on industrial, trade or business premises, the maximum fine is £20,000.
Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 empowers complainants to pursue independent action through the local magistrates’ court in order to deal with the nuisance. If such a case were successful, the court would order an abatement of the nuisance and may award costs to the complainant, although this is not a requirement. Taking legal action may be expensive, however. If the case is dismissed you will normally incur your own costs and may incur the costs of the other party.
Complainants should contact the clerk at the magistrates’ court and the local branch of the Citizens Advice Bureau.
If you are not satisfied
If, after allowing a reasonable time for the local authority to act you are unhappy about the way they have handled the case you should make a formal complaint to the relevant department at the authority or Chief Executive. Alternatively you can talk to your elected ward councillor. Your local authority may have a formal complaints procedure.
You have a right to apply to your Local Government Ombudsman who can investigate how a local authority has dealt with your case. The ombudsman is independent of both local and central government. The decision whether or not to investigate a complaint is entirely at the ombudsman's discretion.
- More information: Local Government Ombudsmen website
The following are the principal Acts used by local authorities when dealing with neighbourhood noise and statutory nuisance. They are available on request from The Stationery Office:
- Control of Pollution Act 1974: Chapter 40 Part 3: ISBN 0 10 544 074 4
- Environmental Protection Act 1990: Chapter 43 Part 3: ISBN 0 10 544390 5
- Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act 1993: ISBN 0 10 544093 0
- Noise Act 1996: ISBN 0 10 543796 4
- Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005: ISBN 0105415057
Page last modified: 30 March 2010