Borough Council of Wellingborough

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Noise

Noise complaints

In general terms the council will investigate complaints of noise from the following sources:

  • Domestic noise, from loud music or TVs, DIY, banging etc.
  • Barking dogs/noisy animals
  • House and vehicle alarms
  • Commercial and industrial noise, from pubs and clubs, noisy machinery, early morning deliveries etc.
  • Roadworks and construction sites
  • Noise from equipment in streets

We cannot deal with noise from:

  • Aircraft
  • Traffic
  • Motorcycles in public areas - contact the Police
  • Shouting in the street - Police may assist in serious cases

Noise problems

Everyone makes noise when going about his or her normal activities. Whilst talking to others, playing music, doing DIY, having barbecues and driving our cars are all perfectly ordinary activities we must ensure that when we carry them out we do not cause a nuisance to others.

In recent years the use of powerful music systems, the trend for domestic DIY, dogs being left at home while people are at work, the installation of intruder alarms and the rise in the volume of traffic have led to a noisier environment.

If you are concerned about noise, which is affecting your life, or are keen to ensure you do not cause annoyance to others, then the following information is intended to help you. 

Noise nuisance

In all cases we suggest you try talking to the person responsible for the noise and discuss the problem. If this is not successful in resolving the issue you should report it to the council. The council will require information from you before we can commence an investigation into whether a statutory noise nuisance exists.

What is a 'statutory noise nuisance'?

The council must consider whether the noise is a statutory noise nuisance. Officers must assess the loudness, time of day, reasonableness, how often it happens and for how long it goes on, in making their decision. For the council to be able to take formal legal action there must be evidence of a serious interference with your reasonable peace and quiet. For example to hear a neighbour's TV or stereo during the day may be acceptable, but if it disturbs or prevents sleep at night it will not be.

There are some noises such as household noises, banging etc. which do not last long and are irregular and the council is unlikely to be able to prove a nuisance exists. In this case you can complain directly to the Magistrates Court, provided you can persuade the court of your case.

Report a nuisance and noise evidence

You may make your complaint either in writing, by telephone or by completing an online report form. The noise complaint guide provides information relating to potential stages of a complaint.

Providing evidence of the noise

If you are suffering from a noise problem evidence will need to be provided to an environmental protection officer, unless you decide to take private action, see below.

For an ongoing case this will involve providing nuisance record sheets, using audio equipment provided by the council and arranging for officers to visit to witness the noise.

There are now opportunities using commonly available household devices to supplement this information at any stage of a complaint by gathering audio or video evidence at the time the noise is happening and providing it to us.

  • You need to be aware that while this will be very useful information it will not allow the officer to determine if the problem constitutes a statutory nuisance and officers will need to assess this against usual standards.
  • Your evidence needs to be true, to the best of your knowledge and belief, and any recordings must not be fabricated or doctored.
  • When making audio or video evidence of noise, you must try to capture the unacceptable noise from your neighbours you witness from within your property.  You should not risk being accused of snooping on them or infringing their human rights.

How do I do this?

Audio and/or visual evidence can be gathered using a number of methods:

  • mobile phones (especially smart phones)
  • digital video cameras
  • digital cameras

Details on how to make a video or audio clip can be found in the manufacturer's instruction manual (either printed or online). This evidence can then be uploaded to your computer (via e-mail, cable attachment or SD card) and then submitted to us using the noise reporting form.

There is also a noise nuisance application available for smart phones that allow you to record and send an audio recording direct to our email address in real time.  The file formats you can upload are jpg, bmp, gif, jpeg, tif, png, mp3, wav, aif, mid, zip. If you have a problem uploading your audio/video clip please let us know by e-mail.

Please note that you should limit each recording to 30 seconds to one minute of recording time as larger recording may be difficult for us to upload  The greater the recording quality, the larger the file size, the less recorded time you will be able to upload. If you play your recording back on your camera/phone and it doesn't sound as you would expect it to, please send it anyway as when we play it back using speakers etc it should be representative of the noise you heard.

Noise emergencies

Whilst you would not have reported a noise nuisance unless it was significant to you, most complaints will be dealt with during office hours by an approach to the responsible party and an assessment of their response to the request to moderate their behaviour. There are some instances that the Council will deem as emergencies and will endeavour to respond to at any time. These are:

  • The prolonged sounding of a house or vehicle alarm during the night-time hours
  • Noise having a significant impact on local residents at night, e.g. a noisy party affecting a number of residents
  • Noise from a licenced premises

In these circumstances you should report the problem by telephoning 01933 229777  and choosing the reporting option. Officers will attempt to resolve these problems, however there is no guarantee that in these circumstances due to legal and other constraints that the problem will be swiftly solved.

What happens if the Council receives a complaint about my dog?

In the event that the Council receives a complaint about excessive barking, it is required to investigate and take appropriate action, this is usually by letter or the dog warden may visit you to discuss methods of reducing your dogs barking.

Where there is evidence of a serious local nuisance affecting others, the Council may have to take further legal action against the owner of the dog for not preventing a noise nuisance; this may include prosecuting persistent offenders in the Magistrates Court.

Reason and remedy

Many dog owners do not realise that while they are at work their dogs are causing a nuisance by constantly whining or barking.

Many people may be at home all day and the barking may be irritating and cause a nuisance to you. Such a nuisance may be considered by the Environmental Protection Officers at the Council to be statutory nuisance which could mean the owner being prosecuted and if the case is proven against them, a large fine imposed.

Advice for dog owners

The two main reasons why a dog barks:

Lack of good exercise - a trot around the block or back garden is not enough. A dog not exercised properly is a stressed animal and can change character and temperament.

The most common reason for barking is simply "your dog misses you" and wants you back. To the dog you are the pack leader and you have left, so the dog barks to get you back.

Possible cure

Firstly, your dog needs to associate that what it is doing is wrong. The dog needs to associate your words "No Barking" with what it is doing - dogs do not have long memories, it takes 5 seconds after doing something wrong for a dog to forget its previous actions.

To test this pretend to leave the house and if you hear the dog bark, go back, and in strong verbal terms say "No Barking". After a few attempts it will associate the words with its actions. Should it stay quiet when tested, give a reward and lots of praise i.e. "Good boy, not to bark" etc. Gradually the dog will learn that it is bad to bark as an expression of loneliness.

You can stretch the test times so that the dog does not know whether you have gone for a minute or 8 hours!

What the dog will associate with is that barking is "a bad dog" and that you, as the owner, might return any minute to catch it out and be cross with it. In most cases, it is not the dog that needs training, but us! 

For further information or assistance with a current situation please contact the Borough Council of Wellingborough Environmental Protection Team, further information on reducing barking can be found on DEFRA's website or the Council's Barking Dog leaflet.

Other animal noise

It's not just barking dogs that can cause a nuisance to surrounding neighbours, caged birds and cockerels can be difficult to keep in built up areas without causing problems to your neighbours.  Each case will have to be assessed individually by the Environmental Protection team to evaluate if a nuisance is being caused.  Please contact the department either by phone, email or by completing an online reporting form.

Alarms

Property alarms

Intruder alarms are designed to provide an audible alert and may often be heard over a large area. If they have the required 20 minute cut out and are attended to that should not pose a problem.

However if they misfire and repeat etc then they may cause a serious problem.

The Council has powers to silence a misfiring alarm including entering the property if necessary. The alarm would be disconnected and the cost of the works would be charged to the owner.

This can be avoided by registering your alarm on our free confidential database and providing 2 keyholders who can attend to silence the alarm in your absence.

A form for doing this is available here.

Intruder Alarm - Keyholder Detail form

Car alarms

Misfiring alarms can cause a similar problem.

To report a noisy alarm contact Environmental Protection or our out of hours service follow the instruction on page 5 above.

Construction noise

Building works can be noisy and disruptive. However, with care, jobs such as small scale construction, conversion, refurbishment, underpinning and even demolition can be carried out without causing too much annoyance to neighbours.  The Council has extensive powers to control noise and other nuisance from building sites further information can be found in the Considerate Contractor Advice Note.