Noise pollution is often considered one of the lesser evils when the topic of pollution arises, but it can be detrimental to public health and to the environment, and so needs to be taken more seriously. Let’s explore this further:
What is classed as noise pollution?
The dictionary definition of noise pollution is noise which is deemed harmful or annoying; in English private law, it can be: “an unlawful interference with a person’s use or enjoyment of land or of some right over, or in connection, with it.” (Source:Environment Law).
Whilst what is classed as annoying may differ from person to person, as sensitivity to sound can vary, there is a standard level that, when exceeded, becomes unreasonable.
There are different types of noise pollution and we’ve broadly categorised these as follows:
Domestic noise can be anything from neighbours playing loud music, or excessive loud shouting, to dogs barking or intruder alarms that go on for over 20 minutes.
Commercial noise comes from construction sites, pubs and clubs, factories or industrial premises, delivery vans and recreational noise from public events.
This covers machinery being used in the street / road, car alarms, and loudspeakers (although it’s actually illegal to use a loudspeaker for entertainment, advertising, trade or business).
What problems can noise pollution cause?
Research has shown that exposure to aircraft or road traffic noise, especially at night (and even if you sleep through the noise), can increase the risk of high blood pressure.
A number of studies have been carried out around aircraft noise and some have even found that prolonged exposure to this type of noise can cause an increase in heart attacks and strokes.
Other effects of noise pollution include:
- Hearing problems
- Psychological health issues
- Heart issues
- Sleep disorders
- Headaches, migraines, nausea and dizziness
It has even been found that exposure to road or airport noise can affect the reading ability and long-term memory of children. (Source Academic)
As well as the impact on human health, noise pollution can also pose a risk to wildlife as it interferes with communication, mating and hunting.
What are the noise pollution laws in the UK?
Despite what many may believe, there is no maximum permitted noise level; while how loud the sound is will be taken into consideration by investigating Officers, and decibels may be recorded, noise can be deemed a nuisance regardless of volume.
However, where night time noise is concerned, high levels of noise are not permitted between the hours of 11pm and 7am. And it’s generally accepted that noisy DIY, or the use of other noisy household objects, should only take place between the hours of 8am and 6pm on weekdays, and 8am and 1pm on Saturdays; noisy DIY shouldn’t take place on a Sunday.
How do Councils deal with noise pollution complaints?
If noise is deemed a statutory nuisance, under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, then the Council must serve an abatement notice on the person responsible or the owner of the premises or vehicle.
However, someone causing nighttime noise can be issued a warning notice without the noise being deemed a statutory nuisance. If the noise is not reduced to an acceptable level, then further action (such as a Fixed Penalty Notice, prosecution, or removal of noisy equipment) can take place.
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