Noise and Nuisances

Common causes for noise complaints are loud music, parties, barking dogs, noise from industrial premises and DIY. Advice on how owners can reduce noise from barking dogs, cockerels, burglar alarms is given below. 

Nuisances may arise from premises, smoke, fumes, dust, smell, artificial light or accumulations from waste. Below you will find advice on the law surrounding garden fires and information on Industrial and Commercial fires, Odour and Fumes, Agricultural Odours and Artificial Light.

Only when the noise or nuisance becomes unreasonable due to frequency or duration and interferes with the use and enjoyment of your property can it be classed as a ‘statutory nuisance’ and the Council have powers to take action. Noise in particular only becomes a statutory nuisance when it affects your ability to use your own property in the way you normally would, for example, prevents you from sleeping or you have to turn up the volume of your television to hear it.

Before we can take any formal action, we have to be satisfied the noise or nuisance is significant enough to be a statutory nuisance.

What can you do?

In the first instance it is better to talk to the person and explain the problem. You may find that it can be resolved amicably and without the need for further action as they may not be aware of the problem. This has the additional benefit of avoiding the tensions that can arise after formal intervention by the Council. Approach the matter carefully if you think your neighbour might react angrily to a complaint.

If you are disturbed by noise from industrial or commercial premises or a building site, try visiting to speak to the site Manager. They may not be aware that there is a problem and maybe able to resolve it. 

What powers does the Council have?

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 gives powers to deal with a statutory nuisance which includes:
• Noise from premises, vehicles (but not road traffic), machinery or equipment in a street.

• Premises in such a state as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance.
• Smoke or fumes from domestic or industrial premises; garden fires or chimneys
• Dust, steam, smell or other effluvia emitted from industrial trade or business premises, but not a domestic premises.
• Artificial light
• Accumulations or deposits such as domestic refuse, dog faeces etc.

The council cannot take action in the following circumstances:

• The issue or noise is not determined as being a statutory nuisance, this is much more than being annoying.
• Noise between properties is due to poor insulation so that reasonable noise from normal activity can be heard.
• An individual person is more sensitive or less tolerant to noise, smoke, odour or light..
• Normal traffic noise. 
• Reasonable activities or behaviours such as cooking or smoking odours from domestic properties.

Making a Complaint

For a complaint to be taken for investigation you must-

  • provide us your name and address - we cannot investigate anonymous complaints,
  • know the specific address of where the problem is coming from,
  • complete and return a witness statement diary with detailed information of times, dates and a description of how you are being  affected, and
  • be prepared to go to court if needed.

The actions of the Council, as a result of your complaint, may result in a legal action in the courts. Because of this, it is not possible for us to ensure that you can remain anonymous throughout the investigation. Every effort will be made to ensure that your identity is only revealed when it becomes absolutely necessary.

The law is extremely complex and each case is individually assessed to establish whether the problem is sufficiently severe as to warrant legal action. You can download a copy of the Council's Nuisance Complaints Investigation Policy (docx 110.41 KB).  The policy explains:

  • The law which applies
  • how we decide whether the noise complained of is, or is not, a statutory nuisance.
  • How we investigate a complaint.

Barking Dogs - Advice for owners

Noise from dogs barking becomes a problem when it is not controlled and dogs are allowed to bark unchecked. This may be because the dog is left alone all day, either inside and outside of properties and the owner may not be aware of their pet's behaviour and how it is affecting the neighbours who have to listen to it.

Dogs often bark or whine through boredom, distress and fear. Try to ensure your dog is happy. Feed and exercise your dog before you go out and make sure it has water, a comfortable bed and toys. It may help to leave a radio on low or a light on if you are not due back until dark. If the dog is outside position the kennel away from neighbouring properties.

Cockerels - Advice for owners

Noise from crowing cockerels are more frequent during the spring and summer months due to the longer daylight hours. A statutory nuisance is more likely to result if a cockerel is crowing at unsocial hours and kept in a built up area. It is worth remembering that a cockerel is not needed for chickens to produce eggs or lay better. Chicken owners should also ensure that they are kept within the boundary of their own land.

To reduce crowing,
• make sure the cockerel is as far away as possible from any neighbouring properties.
• As cockerels tend to crow from first light, put them into a hen house or coop at night so that they are not aware of the dawn light and do not know when to start crowing. Keep the coop as dark as possible.
• Let the cockerel out later in the morning, preferably after 8.00 am as this can delay the early morning crowing.
• Ideally only have one cockerel as they will compete with cockerels which may increase crowing.
• Consider separate coops for different breeds so the coop for smaller breeds can have a lower ceiling height.

Burglar alarms

False alarms and faulty systems are the most common causes of burglar alarms sounding especially if a fault develops when the owner is on holiday. If a sounding alarm is considered to be a statutory nuisance the Council will serve a Noise Abatement Notice. This may result in the Council obtaining a warrant from the Magistrates' Court if it is necessary to enter the premises to deactivate the alarm if it is not done so when the notice expires. In such cases, the costs of the work will be recovered from the person served with the notice. The following measures will help ensure that an alarm only goes off when it should:

• Regularly check and properly maintain the alarm:
• If not already fitted install a 20 minute cut-out device to prevent the alarm sounding for long periods. Every new alarm installation must be fitted with a working cut-out device that will stop all alarm bells or sirens within 20 minutes from the start of the alarm sounding. After that time, security can be maintained by a flashing light.

Garden fires and the Law

There is no specific law to restrict garden fires at certain times or days or prohibit them altogether. An outright ban would be difficult to enforce. However, the law does not permit anyone to create a statutory nuisance from either smoke or fumes.

For smoke or fumes to be considered a statutory nuisance, they would have to be a persistent problem which interfered substantially with someone's well-being, comfort or enjoyment of their property. If a fire is only an occasional event it is unlikely to be considered a statutory nuisance in law. Also, if fires are being lit by different neighbours, each burning occasionally it would be difficult to support an action for a statutory nuisance.

Please contact the Police on 101 if anyone lighting a fire is resulting in the smoke drifting across a road that endangers traffic.

Alternatives to Burning

Before choosing to have a fire please consider alternative ways to dispose of garden waste such as:-

  • Composting - rather than burning garden waste composting will produce a useful soil conditioner saving money on commercial products. Woody waste can be shredded and then composted or used as mulch. If using a shredder they can be noisy so consider the impact on your neighbours.
  • Garden Waste Service - make full use of the council’s free garden waste collection service for grass cutting and hedge trimmings. 
  • Recycling - garden waste can be taken to the amenity disposal sites run by Derbyshire County Council.

Reducing Smoke and Fumes when Burning

Burning garden waste produces smoke, especially if it is damp or green material is being burnt. If you decide to have a garden fire please follow the advice listed below

  • Choose the time of day and weather conditions that will cause the least inconvenience to neighbours. A fire on a windy day can easily get out of control.
  • Choose your bonfire site carefully, well away from trees, fences and windows.
  • Burn material quickly in small quantities so the minimum amount of smoke is created. An incinerator makes this much easier.
  • Have a hose-pipe and buckets of water handy just in case.
  • Advise your nearest neighbours before you light a fire so they can be prepared.

Please Do Not:

  • Burn damp grass clippings or ‘green’ material as this creates thick smoke.
  • Burn any oily rags, rubber, plastics or other materials which will create heavy smoke or toxic fumes.
  • Light a fire when your neighbours have washing drying, are out enjoying their gardens or have windows wide open.
  • Light a fire in the evening and leave burning overnight.
  • Leave a fire to smoulder for long periods.
  • Leave a fire unattended. Hose it down until cold before you leave.

Industrial and commercial bonfires

Bonfires connected with trade waste or commercial activities are illegal. Please contact Environmental Health if you are aware of any burning on a commercial site. Please contact the Police on 101 smoke is being allowed to drift across a road that endangers traffic.

Odour and Fumes

Odours to be carried long distances in the air means they may affect a large number of people. In certain circumstances odours can be a statutory nuisance. This depends on the frequency, duration, intensity and / or source.

Agricultural Odours

Most people accept agricultural odours as a part of being in the countryside.
For some a common source of odour complaints relate to the spreading of bio-solids (sewage sludge), animal manures (such as chicken manure) and slurries (muck spreading). Prevailing winds can carry these odours some distance across fields and into residential areas.

Spreading of all these waste materials is recognised as standard agricultural practice. As Erewash Borough contains areas of field and working farmland, such odour must be expected from time to time. Sewage sludge may cause more of an odour than other forms of bio-solids. This is the semi solid material left over from the sewage treatment process. It is a readily available and sustainable resource which contains valuable nutrients and trace elements essential to plants and animals.

It is not always possible to predict the expected duration or intensity of odours, as this can be dependent upon weather conditions but odours usually only last for a short period of time. Farmers are encouraged to use best practice whilst spreading on their fields.

When does spreading take place?

Spreading can only be undertaken in fair weather as ploughing in wet, cold or frozen ground is not feasible. The growing season dictates that most crops are harvested in summer. Ploughing in of manures follows almost immediately to replenish the soil ready for the following year. Unfortunately this means that spreading is most likely to occur at times when people will have their windows open or want to outside.
The process of spreading is a key factor in successful farming; unfortunately the weather and positions of their fields/crops dictate when farmers can spread.

Are farmers allowed to spread?

The spreading of bio-sludge, manure and slurry onto agricultural land is:-
• a lawful activity
• considered the best option for disposal and,
• recognised as a sustainable agricultural practice as it reduces the use of chemical fertilisers.

Without recycling in this way, these by-products would need to be disposed of in much less sustainable ways, for example by being sent to landfill. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has published a Code of Good Agricultural Practice for Farmers, Growers and Land Managers. The code is a practical guide to help farmers protect the environment in which they operate. Whilst the code itself is not law, compliance with it can help farmers meet their legal obligations. The code provides advice to farmers on how to carry out their activities, such as spreading, whilst causing minimum nuisance to neighbouring properties.

Can the council take any action?

It is unlikely that action will be taken against agricultural odours in a country location, unless the odour is unreasonably excessive and is identified as being the result of bad agricultural practice.
For complaints to be investigated by the council it is necessary to provide details of:-

  • The duration of the odour.
  • The farm undertaking the spreading or as much detail of the source as possible.

If the source of the odour can be identified the farmer may be contacted and advised on best practice and encouraged to use it.

Artificial Light

Light shining into your property can be a nuisance and is best described as artificial light that illuminates or intrudes on areas not intended to be lit such as security lights. There is little in the way of formal guidance as to what constitutes legally actionable light nuisance. There is no fixed level which constitutes a statutory nuisance; individual circumstances differ and each case has to be judged on its own merits, including the duration and frequency of the light nuisance.

The Borough Council has no legal powers over general light pollution, for example of the night sky, only light that is causing a potential nuisance to an individual. Light nuisance does not include light emitted from premises used for transport purposes or where high levels of light are required for safety and security reasons such as street lighting.

Preventing Light Nuisance

To minimise the risk of causing a light nuisance to neighbouring properties, please think about the following:
• Is the lighting necessary?
• Consider the hours or time of day that the lighting is on.
• Can the lights be adjusted to only illuminate the area required?
• Can the lights be directed downwards rather than shining horizontally?