Environmental Protection Act 1990
Information about controlling noise from businesses and homes and what constitutes as being a noise nuisance
What does the Environmental Protection Act 1990 allow Wealden to do?
How we deal with noise pollution created at home or in a work place including serving notices on the person causing the nuisance.
Why there are no byelaws in Wealden concerning noise.
This act is designed to control noise from businesses and homes, whether rented or owned by you. It means that the occupier of a business premises or house must not cause nuisance to other people through noise.
This covers noise from all sources including HiFi equipment, radios, televisions, powers tools and musical instruments.
The only things that we exclude are noise from children, screaming and shouting and ordinary activities essential to life eg. normal daytime use of washing machines and vacuum cleaners. Also excluded are certain noise sources because the local authority cannot control them eg. noise from aeroplanes, traffic and military or police operations.
A nuisance is not clearly defined in the act, but case law since the late 1800's has defined the term more clearly. Today it is accepted that to be a nuisance, noise must meet the conditions set out below. It must:
- Affect you at home or your place of work.
- Change what you do in your home or work place, to a significant extent e.g. It must be so loud in your garden or within your home, that it makes you either move rooms, leave the house, or at the very least make you uncomfortable (you have to adjust the level of television so you can hear it). Noise at night is more likely to be a nuisance when people are trying to sleep.
- Occurring either reasonably frequently, weekly or more often for short periods or continue for a long period of time, for example several days.
Anything that does not meet all of the conditions is unlikely to constitute a nuisance and we do not have control over noise that is not a nuisance. It is important that we note that there are no set maximum decibels that you can produce and be safe.
If is a noise is found to be a statutory nuisance, then a notice can be served on the person causing the nuisance. A notice is essentially a last written legal warning and any further noise nuisance after the service of the notice can result in prosecution. In most home based situations we ask that the notice be complied with straight away.
When the noise is from a business, the period to allow the company to comply is often longer and can be several months where a lot of work is needed. The person who gets the notice can also appeal against it and this appeal must go before a court to be decided, this can delay the enforcement of the notice.
Commonly the Council only uses one set of powers at a time, for example with a faulty burglar alarm, we would usually only do work to stop the nuisance and then recover the costs of that work and the officer time involved. In a situation with a domestic HiFi used to excess, it has been necessary to seize the equipment, although in such cases we have also tended to prosecute the person causing the nuisance because this allows us to seek permanent confiscation of the equipment together with a fine. Persons breaching a noise abatement notice at home can expect to receive fines of up to £5,000 and in business situations a court, demonstrating the serious nature of noise problems, could impose fines of up to £20,000.
There are no byelaws in Wealden concerning noise. Generally local authorities have not used their powers to make byelaws concerning noise because the existing legislation is good enough to deal with the problems that do occur.