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Environmental Protection - Noise

What is noise pollution?

Excessive noise can seriously affect the quality of life.

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Complaints about excessive noise are investigated by officers. They can take action if the noise is considered to be a statutory nuisance.

Noise nuisance is covered by Part III of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. This empowers local authorities to deal with noise from fixed premises.

Before action can be taken we have to be sure that the noise constitutes a statutory nuisance.

This means that we have to prove that the noise is:

  • prejudicial to health
  • is causing an unreasonable and persistent disturbance to your lifestyle
Complaints can be made to the Environmental Protection Team by telephone, email or letter to the contact details on this page.  Details of your name and address will be kept in the strictest confidence. Occasionally, however, the person you have made a complaint about may guess who has made a complaint. Alternatively they may approach you and ask if you have made a complaint. If we take legal action you will be required to appear in court as a witness.

When we receive a report of noise nuisance we will investigate to determine if a statutory noise nuisance exists.  We normally write to the person making the noise asking them to cease with their noisy activities.  At the same time we will ask you to keep witness diary sheets which we will provide so you can record the evidence. We will also send you a leaflet regarding noise nuisance.  It will be necessary for an officer from Cornwall Council to witness the noise nuisance before we can take formal action.  This is either done by placing equipment in your property so you can record the noise or by an officer visiting your premises.

If the property that is affecting you is owned by a Social Landlord they would have a team that will investigate the issue under the tenancy. We would recommend that you contact them regarding issues with their tenant initially. Here are some contact numbers for some Social Landlords:

  • Cornwall Housing - 0300 1234 161
  • Coastline Housing - 01209 200200
  • Cornwall Rural Housing Association - 01208 892000
  • Livewest - 0300 123 8080
  • Westward Housing - 0300 1001010
  • Sanctuary Housing - 0800 1313348
  • Ocean Housing - 01726 874450 

If we are satisfied that a statutory nuisance exists a Noise Abatement Notice will be served on the person(s) causing the problem. Where work is required to meet the terms of the notice a period of time will be given to allow it to be carried out. Failure to comply with the notice after that time is a criminal offence and the person can be prosecuted. If the notice specifies the carrying out of work and this is not done, we can do the work ourselves. We can recover the costs from the person(s) who should have done it.

Cornwall Council also has the power to seize any equipment such as TV’s or stereos that may be causing a noise nuisance. We can do this if a breach of the noise abatement notice is witnessed.  The council may also choose to issue a fixed penalty notice on the noise maker.

There are some occasions where we are unable to take action, where the noise is not judged to be a statutory nuisance. If the council decides that formal action cannot be taken you will be informed. You will be given advice about taking action yourself if you wish to do so.

  • Industrial and Commercial noise (for example fans)
  • Agricultural noise, including bird scarers
  • Noise from construction and demolition works
  • Loud music from Licensed premises (alongside Licensing Enforcement)
  • Domestic noise including amplified music and DIY
  • Barking dogs
  • Leisure activities, e.g. clay pigeon shoots/off road events
  • Noise from vehicles, equipment and machinery in the street (excluding noise from traffic)
  • Audible intruder alarms
  • Private Nuisances
  • Where the address/source of the noise is not known
  • Everyday household noise, such as:
    • footsteps
    • doors closing
    • vacuum cleaners
    • washing machines
    • children playing
    • babies crying or talking
  • Noise in the street, such as vehicles left running, car stereos, shouting or car horns
  • Traffic noise
  • Aircraft - fixed wing and helicopters (Civil Aviation Authority)
  • Armed forces activities

Many noise problems, particularly those involving neighbours can be resolved informally. This can be resolved by, for example, explaining to your neighbours the problems they are causing. Legal action should be a last resort. It is unpleasant and will inevitably further sour the relationship between you and your neighbour. However, when this approach fails then we may be able to help.  Sometimes noise is caused by shouting, arguing or swearing or by the deliberate banging of doors. In such cases the Antisocial Behaviour team may be able to help.

Do you require more advice and information on noise nuisance? If so, please contact the Environmental Protection Team: