Disturbances from noise

If only we all liked the same sounds, at the same time of the day or night, life would be much simpler. But we don’t.

When it comes to the everyday sounds of a busy neighbourhood, we each have different lifestyles, different tastes and different tolerances. What is music to your ears could well be that ‘awful row’ to your neighbour.

Noise is excessive and unwanted sound that can become an annoyance and source of stress for many people. It can become a particular problem if it is regularly loud, impulsive or has a particular tone or character that causes it to be distinctive.

We all make some noise but awareness is the key to making sure that it is not a problem for others. There is some evidence that people are becoming more concerned about noise and it is certainly the case that people do have different sensitivities and expectations as to whether sound or noise is considered to be intrusive. This makes it particularly important to be considerate of neighbours.

Some noise is unavoidable but there are simple ways to avoid disturbing others.

How we can help

We can take action when noise is unreasonable and likely to cause a serious disturbance to the average person.

Noise that is intermittent or infrequent can annoy people but it is unlikely that we could prove that this is causing a serious impact and we cannot become involved in investigating this type of noise. Certain types of noise are exempt from investigation under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and these include:

  • Aircraft noise
  • Traffic noise caused by cars, lorries and other vehicles passing on our roads
  • Social noise eg from children playing
  • Noise from gulls or wildlife
  • Background noise
  • Low frequency noise (that is not audible to most people)

As most people can appreciate we clearly need to concentrate our efforts on those complaints that are serious and where we are likely to be able to prove that there is an issue.

It is also important to remember that often issues that arise are best dealt with informally between neighbours. In the vast majority of cases this will mean that problems can be resolved fairly quickly and it is surprising how often neighbours will not have realised that their actions are causing a problem.

In this section you will find lots of information on the most common types of noise. You should also visit our Before you report a pollution problem page for advice on resolving problems informally.

Reducing noise at home

On this page you will find our top tips for reducing the likelihood of causing a noise disturbance to your neighbours.

Noise from construction sites

Construction noise covers inherently noisy operations such as building works, road works and demolition.

Noise from alarms

Noise from burglar alarms that go off accidentally or have a fault that causes them to sound can cause a serious disturbance to those that live in neighbouring properties.

Industrial or commercial noise

Noise from industrial or commercial premises is varied and can be very intrusive if measures are not in place to control and limit the effect of the noise.