“Statutory nuisance” is a fairly expansive legal term, defined in the Environmental Protection Act 1990 for when somebody is causing certain kinds of unreasonable disturbance. It has been succinctly described as “an activity that is, or is likely to be, damaging to health or a nuisance.”
Another, slightly longer and perhaps slightly clearer definition exists: “something which is stopping you from enjoying your land or property.” Some of the most common things that might form a statutory nuisance include noise, smoke, dust, unpleasant odours, and lights.
Noise as a Statutory Nuisance
If someone is disturbing you in your home through excessive noise, this could constitute a statutory nuisance. However, this is not necessarily the case; UK law does not provide a right to silence in your own home. If the noise is not judged excessive enough to contribute a statutory nuisance, unfortunately you will just have to tolerate it. The task of investigating a noise complaint and deciding whether it amounts to a statutory nuisance falls to Environmental Health Officers (EHOs).
As for how a decision is reached, there are several factors involved besides the question of whether the noise is an irritation or not. Probably the most significant of these factors is whether the noise is likely to harm the health or general wellbeing of those affected. Other important considerations include:
- Extent: The volume, intrusiveness and duration of the noise are taken into account. As different people have different tolerances, the aim is to assess how seriously it would affect an average person.
- Time: There are no time limits on when a statutory noise nuisance can occur, but loud noises are more likely to be deemed a nuisance at night when the majority of people are sleeping than during the day.
- Place: Some weight is given to the question of whether the noise is normal for the area. Agricultural machinery in the early hours of the morning might be considered reasonable on a farm in a quiet rural area, but not so much in a suburban garden.
- Regularity: If noisy activities are repeatedly happening, they will probably be taken more seriously and are more likely to be deemed a statutory nuisance than one-off or occasional noises.
- Number of People Affected: The number of people who are affected by the noise will also be taken into account. If more people are affected, this can lead to the matter being taken more seriously. Alternatively, if a lot of people are affected but only one has made any complaint, this could be taken as an indication that the complainer is unusually sensitive.
Although much of this is subjective, the training that EHOs receive and their experience of applying these principles should lead to different professionals being fairly consistent in their approach. When investigating a complaint, an EHO will gather evidence in a number of ways, such as taking recordings or visiting witnesses, and if they decide that the noise is a statutory nuisance they will serve an abatement notice to the person responsible. It is a criminal offence to fail to comply with this notice.
Gathering evidence of a possible statutory noise nuisance can be made easier by the use of the Noise Toolkit. This is designed to help you document recurring noise problems and gather other evidence such as witness statements and recordings (sound or video). However, note that while this evidence can support an investigation, it is still up to the decision of an EHO whether the noise in question is actually a statutory nuisance or not.
Taking Further Action
Sometimes, unfortunate circumstances mean that you are the only one who witnesses the nuisance, even after an investigation by an EHO. If this is the case, then you may be able to take further action of your own through your local magistrates’ court.
There is a provision within Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which allows private individuals to take their own action against noise problems that they believe to be a statutory nuisance. This is done by taking their complaint to the magistrates’ courts, which have the power to issue noise abatement orders as well as fines. The court may also issue further fines if a noise abatement order is then breached.
This should not normally be your first port of call. However, if you are having severe problems with noise and have not been able to resolve them through other routes such as your local council or a mediation service, then taking action through a magistrate’s court can be a way to get a result. I can provide the services of traditional noise nuisance lawyers, providing you with the necessary advice and assistance throughout the whole process.
When is Taking your own Action Appropriate?
But how do you know when things have reached a point where it is appropriate to take action yourself through the magistrate’s court rather than following other channels? The Environmental Protection Act 1990 states that an individual is entitled to do so when they are “aggrieved by a statutory nuisance.”
In the case of a noise complaint, the noise would have to have a significant effect on your ability to enjoy your property. Your response would have to be reasonable and not that of an especially sensitive person.
If you have any problems with noise nuisance or you require the services of traditional noise nuisance solicitors, as well as an experienced noise nuisance barrister, please contact me on 07771 541449 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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