Noise Pollution

Further information is also available on the hate crime page.

What is Noise?

Noise is generally regarded as unwanted sound. It could be too loud, too intrusive or just happen at the wrong time or without warning.  For example, nobody enjoys being woken up in the middle of the night by a faulty car alarm or being kept awake by loud music.

Noise volume is not the only thing that can affect our response to sound. Unexpected noise, repetitive bass beats, screeches or whines and amplified speech can also be annoying.

There are many types of noise which under certain circumstances can cause a statutory nuisance, for example, when the noise occurs for long periods, is not an isolated occurrence, or interferes with your general living standards.

In an instance where the noise is severe enough to be considered a statutory nuisance, we will give the complainants advice on how they might reduce the problem.

Generally speaking, the Council will try to deal with noise from the following: Factories, Pubs, Clubs, Discos, Parties, Faulty Alarms, Noisy Neighbours, and Building and Demolition sites.

However, the Council is unable to take action over a noise disturbance from: Children, Roads and Railways, Aircraft, or Wildlife. 

Sometimes relations between neighbours are generally strained and the noise complaint is part of a more complicated problem.

What is 'Too Noisy'?

The great difficulty that Council Officers have in making a judgement is the varying reaction of different individuals to the same level of noise. One person will accept a noisy situation that will drive another person to distraction. Another factor is the time the noise is created. What is acceptable at 10pm on Saturday night has by 2am Sunday morning often become decidedly unacceptable. The volume of the noise, its nature, frequency and duration are also factors to consider.

The crucial point for the Council Officer is whether the Council can be satisfied from first hand evidence, backed by details provided by a complainant, that there is noise amounting to a statutory nuisance. Investigating Officers cannot simply take the word of the complainant, so it may be necessary for the complainant to give a witness statement, and to make a recording of the noise on one of the Councils special tape recorders.

It is a fact of life that we all make noise, whether we are talking to others, playing music, entertaining, driving in our cars or just going about our daily business.

What could be a pleasure to one person may be a nuisance to another. Excessive noise can reduce the quality of life and, in some cases, even destroy it entirely.

If noise is upsetting your life then this information may show you how to overcome the problem in a number of positive and constructive ways.

Sound Levels in Decibels

These are not permitted levels but are examples given for guidance purposes

120 Discotheque - 1 metre in front of a loud speaker
100 Pneumatic drill at 5 metres
90 Heavy goods vehicle from pavement; powered lawnmower at operator's ear
70 Vacuum Cleaner at 3 metres; Telephone ringing at 2 metres
50 Boiling kettle at half a metre
40 Refrigerator humming at 2 metres

The basic concept of a noise nuisance is one premises materially affecting the enjoyment of another premises.

The criteria to be considered when assessing noise nuisance, is the frequency and duration of any event and how controllable the source is.  An isolated occurrence would not normally satisfy the criteria for nuisance. However, there may be exceptions such as a prolonged party affecting a large number of people.

The following are problems that could be investigated for nuisance:

  • amplified music
  • barking dogs
  • air conditioning units

The Council cannot deal with noise from children playing and shouting; traffic on the highway; train or aeroplane noise.

Noise from building sites is covered by different legislation. As construction work is noisy because of the nature of the works, where work is audible at the site boundary the working hours are restricted to:

  •  8am - 6pm Monday – Friday
  •  9am – 1pm Saturdays
  •  At no time on Sundays or Bank Holidays

Noise from other commercial sources may be inherent due to the nature of the work. Although this is still covered by nuisance legislation, there is a Statutory Defence of Best Practical Means. This means that if the company are taking all reasonable measures to minimise the noise the Council will not be able to take any action.

What next?

If you can, first discuss the problem with the person creating the noise. It is best not to do this when you are still cross about the situation. Often easier said than done! Some people may be difficult to deal with and often don't appreciate that their activities are creating a nuisance to others and don't or won't want to talk about it.

Like you, the Council will try to solve the problem informally. If this fails and Officers are satisfied the noise amounts to a statutory nuisance they may serve an Abatement Notice. If the person fails to comply they could be fined up to £5,000. This rises to £20,000 if the noise is from a commercial source, such as a Pub or Factory.

You can register a complaint by contacting the Customer Service Centre by telephone (01923 776611) or e-mail  Always give an indication of when you can be found at home, or where you can be contacted during the day. Try to give a precise location of the source of the problem.

An officer will carry out a preliminary investigation and discuss the matter with you. At no time will the identity of the complainant be disclosed during the early stages of the investigation, although sometimes this will be obvious to the person creating the noise, should he or she be approached by the Officer. The Council Officer will advise you on the options available to you and how your complaint will be investigated.

How the Council investigates nuisance complaints:

During office hours the Council’s Customer Service Centre (01923 776611) will take all the relevant details including advising that, where possible, efforts to resolve any problems between both parties should be tried first. If such efforts have not been successful or if there is a valid reason why such an approach cannot be made to the other party a letter will be sent to the person causing the problem giving them the opportunity to resolve issues without formal intervention by the Council. Details of the complainant are not revealed in the letter. Diary sheets will be sent to the complainant so that all incidences can be logged detailing the effect they have on the complainant’s enjoyment of his/her property. Upon receipt of completed diary sheets the Council will review the evidence and decide on whether further action is required.

If you have an Apple or Android smartphone you can now use The Noise App to make a complaint about a noise nuisance. The app allows you to make short audio recordings of the noise and enter details about the nature of the disturbance using your smartphone which then combine to make an electronic noise diary. This can then easily be sent to the Council's Environmental Health Service for investigation by submitting the complaint via the app (please note that an email account must be set up on the smartphone). You can download the app for free using your smartphone at the following link:

You will be required to register your details following installation and select Three Rivers District Council as your Service Provider. Please ensure that 'push notifications' are allowed so that you can be notified on your smartphone when the Council messages you within the app. For information on using the app to see the attached user guide below.
The Noise App User Guide (pdf)


You can contact this department directly by telephone or email:

Telephone no: 01923 776611
Fax no: 01923 896119