Some sources of noise are outside of the legal control of local authorities. We are unable to address:
- Children playing;
- A one-off party or celebration;
- Road traffic, rail noise, aircraft noise.
The following factors are considered in deciding if it is a statutory nuisance and therefore legal action can be taken:
- Type and severity of the noise;
- The number of incidents and the duration;
- The time of day (there are no set times for noise to stop, this is for officer judgement)
- The affect upon the complainant’s use of their home.
If you want to raise a complaint, follow this link to the MySandwell Portal. In general, when a complaint is made we will:
- Contact you to gather additional details of the complaint;
- Contact the premises alleged to be causing noise and explain the Council’s procedures for investigating. Very often this informal approach is sufficient to resolve matters and no further action is necessary;
- Send diary or monitoring forms for you to complete;
- Noise monitoring equipment may be used during the investigation;
- Where the officer is satisfied that the noise amounts to a statutory nuisance, the owner or occupier of the premises will be required to reduce the noise to an acceptable level or prove they have used Best Practical Means (BPM).
We do not operate a 24-hour response to noise complaints. Our office is open Monday - Friday 9am - 5pm.
Additional details are needed from the complainant about the problem and anonymous complaints will not usually be acted upon. Likewise, complaints received via a third party will not be acted upon until the instigator of the complaint has been spoken to, for extra details.
If no monitoring forms are returned, no further legal action can be taken.
We can only investigate complaints where residents of Sandwell are affected, not business premises.
If we need to pursue a formal legal route for your noise complaint, the company will have a legal right to know who made a complaint against them if they decide to appeal a noise abatement notice in court. With your agreement, your identity may be revealed during legal proceedings. For example, you could also be required to give evidence if the case goes to court.
If the problem cannot be solved by discussion with the company and if it is determined that a statutory nuisance exists, an abatement notice will normally be served, depending on sufficient evidence being available. This requires the abatement of the noise nuisance within a reasonable time. The company has the right to appeal the notice.
If the company does not comply with the notice they may be prosecuted.
Formal action will only be considered by the Council where it has obtained sufficient robust evidence on which to make a determination.
For noise from an industrial, trade or business premises, the operators can use the defence that they used the best practicable means to prevent or counteract the nuisance. Best Practicable Means (BPM) means the company have used all suitable measures to abate the nuisance.
A statutory nuisance is not defined in terms of decibels or noise levels but legally it is considered to be what a reasonable person would find a nuisance. Legally, no account can be taken of any person’s sensitivities, health or way of life, for example, shift work.
Officers are trained and experienced at judging such issues and have a number of non-legally-binding guidance documents to assist them, including World Health Organisation recommended standards, relevant British Standards and Planning Policy Guidance Notes and case law.
While the council has other legal powers, they are not appropriate for matters concerning firework displays. Whilst firework events are inherently noisy, they are short lived and unlikely to meet the threshold for statutory nuisance.
Taking Private Action
There is also provision under Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act for a member of the public to take a case themselves to the Magistrates Court. This may result in the court making a Nuisance Order and it may also impose a fine. It is advisable to seek legal advice before embarking on private action in this way.