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Section 79 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 lists the issues that can be dealt with as statutory nuisances:
These problems become statutory nuisances when they could be considered to unreasonably interfere with the use or enjoyment of another property; the problem must occur regularly and continue for a period of time that makes it unreasonable.
If the council is to act on a complainant's behalf, it is the investigating officer, not the complainant, who decides whether a particular complaint may be considered a statutory nuisance. The officer must decide if, on the basis of their experience and knowledge, a 'reasonable person' would find the problem unacceptable; unfortunately, officers cannot therefore usually deal with complaints from those who have a different or higher expectation of environmental quality.
Noise is often described as 'unwanted sound'; unfortunately, what one person finds an enjoyable sound, another person may find disturbing or unpleasant. Common problem noises include:
Most noise is not subject to a maximum noise level (decibel level) or time limit. Each case must be judged on its merits taking into consideration factors such as:
The following kinds of noise are unlikely to be considered a statutory nuisance:
The council has no legal powers to control the following kinds of noise:
If you feel that you are suffering unnecessary or unreasonable levels of noise or nuisance there are a number of things you can do. Firstly, it may be helpful to speak to the person responsible for the nuisance before taking any other action. People often do not know that they are causing a problem and this approach may help to solve the problem at a more friendly level.
The council's environment unit is responsible for looking into complaints of noise and nuisance and can provide advice and information on dealing with it. We aim to investigate all complaints in an efficient and thorough manner. In most cases, our investigation will involve the following steps:
Step 1 - Brief details of the complaint will be taken. In most cases, we need to take the complainant's name and address; anonymous complaints generally cannot be investigated, but all information is treated confidentially.
Step 2 - We will usually send the complainant record sheets to enable them to keep a written record of the problem. This record helps the council decide if the issue is likely to be considered a statutory nuisance and may also be used as evidence in Court at a later date. If a complainant is unable to complete record sheets, the investigating officer will try to arrange to gather evidence in another way.
Step 3 - A council officer who is competent to assess noise and statutory nuisance complaints will investigate the complaint and try to resolve it informally if at all possible. The officer will contact the person being complained about and advise them that the council has received a complaint. They will be made aware of the legal powers available to the council if they are found to be causing a statutory nuisance. At this stage, the council will not release the identity of the complainant to the person being complained about, unless by agreement; however, the complainant will be required to attend court if the council decides to take legal action.
Step 4 - Complainants will be asked to contact the office again if there is no improvement within 14 days. The problem will then be assessed at the times shown in the record sheets and usually up to three visits can be made.
If the investigating officer believes the problem is a statutory nuisance, the council will consider taking legal action on your behalf. It is likely that the person being complained about will be served with an Abatement Notice under Section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. If the person being complained about does not agree with the notice and appeals or does not comply with the requirements of the Notice, the complainant and other witnesses will be required to give evidence in court.
Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 gives complainants the power to take independent action through the local Magistrates' Court to deal with noise and nuisances where:
Further information is given in the guide providing advice and information on taking independent legal action using section 82 powers.
In addition to dealing with complaints about noise and statutory nuisances, officers also provide advice on, and enforcement of, noise and nuisance issues relating to planning and licensing applications.
Contact the team directly on 01773 841335 or email firstname.lastname@example.org