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Noise Complaints - What Action Can the Council Take?

Noise is an unavoidable part of everyday human life. Whether it is in town or countryside we are surrounded by noise most of the time. While we must accept a certain degree of noise in our daily lives there are some types of noise that are unacceptable. Often people will react to noise in different ways. What can cause extreme annoyance to one person may hardly be noticed by another.

The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 gives powers to the Council to investigate noise which is giving rise to complaint and where such noise amounts to a Statutory Nuisance in such circumstances the Council has the power to serve an abatement notice on the Person Responsible/Owner/Occupier.

We will investigate noise complaints which may be emanating from domestic, commercial, entertainment and industrial premises. The common sources of complaints received are:

  • Barking Dogs

  • Construction Site Noise

  • Entertainment Noise

  • Industrial / Commercial

  • Intruder Alarms

  • Neighbourhood Noise

  • Noise in the Street

In addition the above legislation enacted the Noise Act 1996, providing additional powers to enable the Council to progress night-time noise complaints.

Where excessive noise is evident, greater than the defined limit, the Council has powers to issue a warning notice to reduce the noise within ten minutes. If the person responsible does not comply with the notice, noise measurements are taken and if the noise continues above the permitted noise level, a fixed penalty notice can be issued or they could face prosecution in the courts.

In places of entertainment, and the licensee does not comply with conditions of the Entertainment Licence legal action may be initiated where breaches occur. And, as a resident, you also have the right to object to an entertainment licence being granted or renewed if you feel it would disturb you.

Many noise complaints can be resolved informally be approaching the person responsible for the noise. It is not unusual for them to be unaware that they are disturbing others. However, it may be unwise to make a complaint in the heat of the moment when one is tired, frustrated or angry – the situation could get out of hand very quickly.  It is better to wait until later when the matter can be discussed calmly. However, informal solutions do not always work and people may have to resort to more formal ways of dealing with the problem by referring the matter to the Health and Built Section of the Council.

Report a Noise Problem

You can report a noise problem by phone, or post.

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council

Ballymoney Office,  14 Charles Street, Ballymoney, BT53 6DZ  Tel: 028 2766 0200

Coleraine Office, Cloonavin, 66 Portstewart Road, Coleraine, BT52 1EY  Tel: 028 7034 7034

Limavady Office, 7 Connell Street, Limavady, BT49 0HA  Tel: 028 777 60302

Moyle Office, Sheskburn House, 7 Mary Street, Ballycastle, BT54 6QH   Tel: 028 2076 2225

The Health and Built Environment Department is also consulted in respect of proposed development (Planning/Development Control Consultation Process) to negate excessive noise and prevent adverse impacts to amenity or Statutory Nuisances arising.

Other Sources

The Health and Built Environment section can investigate complaints from other sources such as bird scarers and ice cream van chimes.

Barking Dogs

All dogs bark, but loud or persistent barking and whining can cause a nuisance and lead to problems relaxing or sleeping, especially if you have a baby or young children. If you’re having problems with a barking dog, speak to the owner first before making a formal complaint. The problem may be caused by a dog being left on its own for long periods of time, so your neighbour may not be aware of the problem.

If this doesn’t help contact us and we will log your complaint and instigate an investigation. This includes writing to your neighbour to advise them that we are investigating the noise.

We may also ask you to keep a record of the dates and times of each disturbance. This helps our officers to work out the best time to visit to witness the noise, which is important, as this evidence may be needed if legal action is required. We may also arrange to have tamper proof recording equipment left at your house.

Under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (NI) 2011, we can serve the person responsible with a Noise Abatement Notice if we feel the noise is a nuisance. This gives the person a time limit to reduce the noise but, if it continues, they could face prosecution and a fine of up to £5,000. Barking Dogs Leaflet

Construction Site Noise

A certain amount of noise is inherent in most types of construction and building operations, which can rarely be completely prevented. However, noise from construction sites can be very disturbing.

Councils can enforce hours of operation and noise levels on construction sites where noise is affecting residents or businesses in the area.

Contractors planning to undertake construction and demolition work can consult the Health and Built Environment Department before proceeding, and ask them to make their requirements known.

Entertainment Noise

Noise from licensed premises is a common cause for complaint especially during warm weather. The majority of complaints about noise from licensed premises are a result of ‘entertainment’ of some sort. This may be:

  • noise from live or recorded amplified music

  • television or video

  • musical instruments

  • smoking shelters

  • public address systems

Problems usually occur when the licensed premise is located within a residential area. Low frequency noise from music (the bass beat) can pass easily through a buildings structure.

Most complaints of this nature occur during the summer months when windows are left open for ventilation, and people use their gardens more. At night-time background noise levels fall and entertainment noise may be more noticeable and cause disturbance. The Health and Built Environment can investigate complaints of this nature.

Entertainment venues may be licensed under Article 3 and Schedule 1 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (NI) Order 1985 and the licence should contain conditions relating to noise control and prevention of nuisance.

Industrial/Commercial Noise

Noise from industrial and commercial premises can disturb people living nearby, particularly at night. Examples include:

  • Factory Noise

  • Entertainment Noise

  • Ventilation Systems

The Council can only take action if the noise is confirmed as a statutory nuisance. Noise will have to be assessed to establish if a nuisance exists. This assessment may involve using BS4142:2014 – Rating industrial noise affecting mixed residential and industrial areas.

This standard details a method for assessing whether noise from the industrial source is likely to give rise to complaints from people living in the neighbourhood. It comprises noise from the source with the background noise level. The likelihood of a complaint is defined as the margin between the rating level and the background noise level.

Intruder Alarms

Intruder alarms are an effective way of protecting properties only if they are installed and maintained properly. However, misfiring alarms can be annoying to neighbours, especially when the occupiers are not at the property and the alarm rings for prolonged periods.

With the introduction of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 we have additional powers to deal with noisy alarms.  If the prolonged ringing of an alarm is causing a noise nuisance, the Council may take legal action to resolve the disturbance and prevent it recurring. You are required by law to reimburse the Council for the cost of any action taken to silence the alarm. You may also be prosecuted for causing a nuisance.

We will be able to silence the alarm, and recover the costs from the alarm owner, if

  • it has been sounding for more than 20 minutes continuously or intermittently for more than one hour

  • it is causing reasonable annoyance to those living or working nearby

  • a keyholder for the property cannot be contacted.

If complaints are received about alarms in these areas and a keyholder details are not available, then the owner can be fined.  You can register your details, or a key holder’s details with us for free.

This means we can contact you or your key holder if your alarm goes off and we receive a complaint about it.  All key holders must be able to be contacted by phone, live within 20 minutes travel of the property and know how the alarm system works.  You should also tell us if your details change.  Intruder alarms are ideal for protecting your home from burglaries but they can be irritating to others if they go off for no apparent reason and aren’t quickly switched off.

This also applies to car and smoke alarms.

If you are disturbed by a noisy alarm contact us and we can check to see if we have any details about the property and, if we do, we will contact the key holder and ask them to sort out the problem.  If we don’t have any key holder information, we may call an engineer or a locksmith to help us silence the alarm.  If you are the alarm owner, you could end up being billed for this cost, whether it is a private home or a commercial building.

Alarm owners should do the following to avoid causing a noise nuisance:

  • Register your keyholder details with Health and Built Environment and/or the PSNI. In the event of an alarm sounding unnecessarily and complaints being received, the situation can be easily resolved with the alarm being switched off, preventing formal action by the Council.

  • Make sure your alarm has a working automatic cut off device within 20 minutes of the alarm sounding a device must stop the alarm being heard by people living near the property.

  • Opt for an alarm that includes a flashing light to indicate when the alarm has been activated.

  • Ensure the alarm is kept in good working order.

  • For further information, click on the Intruder Alarm Information Leaflet.

Noise in the Street

We can investigate complaints about noise from vehicles, machinery or equipment in the street such as vehicle security alarms or portable generators.

We can issue an abatement notice on the person responsible, giving a timeframe for them to reduce or stop the noise.

General traffic noise from vehicles travelling on roads is not covered by this legislation.

Planning Applications

Planning applications are received by the Health and Built Section for consultation. These are checked to see if it would be appropriate to build noise prevention measures into the development.

This may often involve the agent/applicant employing the services of an acoustic consultant. Further advice is available by downloading the Advice Note on Acoustic Reports.

Enforcement

When a statutory noise nuisance has been established by an authorised officer an Abatement Notice is served on the offender. Breach of this Notice is an offence. For domestic premises the maximum fine in a Magistrates Court for breaching a Notice is £5,000. For business, industrial or trade premises the fine is £20,000.

The Noise Act 1996 (as amended) provides additional powers to Councils in dealing with certain types of noise complaints. Noise from domestic premises (e.g noisy parties) during the hours of 11.00 pm and 7.00 am where an Officer has confirmed an offence has occurred, can be dealt with by way of a Warning Notice. Failure to comply with a Warning Notice can result in a Fixed Penalty of £110. Similar powers are available to deal with night-time noise from entertainment premises and the Fixed Penalty in this case is £500. Officers also have the power to prosecute and seize noise-making equipment.

In relation to Noise Act offences the authorised officer must witness the offence.

Make a Noise Complaint

If you have a complaint that you would like us to investigate or just want advice, please contact us at:

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council Health and Built Environment
Environmental Services
Ballymoney Office
14 Charles Street
Ballymoney
BT53 6DZ
Telephone:  028 2766 0200