for local authorities to prosecute those who cause excessive noise
disturbance to neighbours at night.
noise complaints to local councils since the mid '90s - but there is
still a need to combat the nuisance caused by anti-social noisy
In a two-pronged attack on the problem that has bedevilled some
neighbourhoods for years, and following a review of The Noise Act
1996, Mr Meacher today announced two key measures:
- Enable councils to use the Act more freely by seeking an amendment
making the night noise offence more accessible to local councils;
- Target the noise making culprits directly in a hard-hitting
publicity campaign based on market research. Get across the message
that everyone has a right to protection from loud noisy neighbours.
Michael Meacher said:
'Firstly I would like to welcome figures published today by the
chartered institute of environmental health. Apart from showing no
increase since the mid-90s, these also show that of over 118,000
neighbour noise incidents reported to local authorities in the year
to end of March 2001, almost half were resolved informally. Of the
remainder, where formal steps were taken, only a few hundred ended up
'I am not necessarily saying I want more cases of noise disturbance
to go to court. What I am recognising only too well is that neighbour
noise is a serious problem for some people and causes a lot of
aggravation. I want to ensure that local authorities have all the
necessary powers to deal with people who make life so unbearable for
their neighbours through unacceptably noisy activities at any time of
'The problem at present is that to use the powers of the 1996 Act
councils have to first adopt it and then provide round-the-clock
noise patrols which are very expensive. We will aim to ensure the
authorities can use the Act fully by seeking an amendment which will
mean they don't have to formally adopt it and commit such large
resources to the problem. At the same time the councils will this way
have more powers to prosecute.
'By not forcing local authorities to adopt the Noise Act 1996 in
order to use the night noise offence, there will be another weapon in
their armour to combat the problem. At present they can still seize
people's music equipment and issue abatement notices under the
Environment Protection Act 1990.
'But what we propose today will eventually offer authorities more
scope. I also firmly believe that after the success of our publicity
leaflet 'Bothered by noise? There's no need to suffer', a
publicity campaign targeting the noise culprits will bring further
dividends. At present, we are reasonably successful in providing
information to those affected by noise, but less successful in
influencing the behaviour of those who cause the noise.'
DEFRA has now completed a review of the Noise Act 1996 following the
parliamentary commitment to do so when the Act was first introduced.
Many local authorities, including those who have adopted the Act,
asked for improved flexibility in using this particular piece of
legislation to deal with night-noise complaints. DEFRA will therefore
look at ways of making the existing powers less prescriptive and
non-adoptive.This would make the night-noise offence more widely
available for use by local authorities when dealing with night-noise
Over 200 responses were received to the department's public
consultation to review the Act, with key results showing that some
local authorities don't spend enough on noise services or provide any
form of out-of-hours service. The Act once adopted, requires local
authorities to provide a 24 hour noise service - but only 14
authorities have chosen to adopt.
Instead most use other powers to issue abatement notices or seize
people's music equipment if necessary.
1. DEFRA issued a consultation paper on 28 December 2000 which gave
three options for future action. These were:
Option 1 - No legislative change on the grounds that most local
authorities now operate night noise services, but use best value
and other existing channels to present the case to all local
authorities for offering these services.
Option 2 - Make the existing provisions mandatory for all
authorities. This would require all authorities to provide an out
of hour's service between 11pm and 7am, 7 days a week, 365 days a
Option 3 - Make the existing provisions less prescriptive and
non-adoptive. This would make the night noise offence another tool
available to all local authorities to use when dealing with
Of 431 consultation papers issued the department received 213
responses to the consultation, many of which were from local
authorities. We have summarised the responses to the consultation
in a paper and a copy of this is available on our websiteand
will also be placed in the libraries of the house of commons and
house of lords.
2. Earlier this year we issued a revised version of our information
leaflet 'Bothered by Noise? There's no need to suffer'. More than
a million copies of this leaflet have been issued over the years
but the latest version is now available both on our website and in a
number of ethnic minority languages.
3. Through DEFRA's remit to improve 'quality of life' in local areas,
we are considering options for a marketing strategy to raise
awareness and influence behaviour around issues of noise control
and prevention. In order to inform the strategy effectively, we
will commission qualitative research to enable a segmented profile of
the different types of noise sufferers and noise makers to be
4. DEFRA has been working with the chartered institute of
environmental health (CIEH) which has today released the results of
its latest annual survey of noise enforcement activity by local
authorities in England and Wales. The figures record the number of
complaints made to local authority environmental health officers
along with the results of these complaints although they are only
representative from 66% of local authorities.