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MAKING IT EASIER TO PROSECUTE NOISY NEIGHBOURS - ENVIRONMENT MINISTER

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Environment minister Michael Meacher today pledged to make it easier ...
Environment minister Michael Meacher today pledged to make it easier

for local authorities to prosecute those who cause excessive noise

disturbance to neighbours at night.

Figures released today show there has not been a rise in neighbour

noise complaints to local councils since the mid '90s - but there is

still a need to combat the nuisance caused by anti-social noisy

neighbours.

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

in court.

'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

day.

'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

complaints

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.

NOTES:

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

year.

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

night-time noise.

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

established.

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.

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