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Noise nuisance

Noise is one of the statutory nuisances that can be investigated by the Council.

Find out more about statutory nuisances

There are many ways in which people can be disturbed by noise.

These include noise from neighbours or businesses, and noise in the street.

We  can investigate certain types of noise nuisance. Before you make a complaint to the council, please consider the following steps:

Try to resolve the problem informally

  • Try talking to the person or business causing the noise. Sometimes people don’t realise that other people can hear their noise.
  • If you’re worried about approaching them you could write a polite letter. You should explain the problem clearly and sticking to the facts.
  • If the problem affects other neighbours it may be easier to settle if the complaint comes from a number of people.
  • A tenants’ association might help if you’re a member of one.

Contact the landlord

  • If you and your neighbour are in rented social housing, including Cornwall Housing. You should first speak with your Housing Officer. Housing providers may also be able to provide mediation.
  • If your neighbour is in rented property, you can complain direct to their landlord. This could be a housing association or a private landlord. Some of the main social housing providers are:

If you don’t know who the private landlord is, you could first speak with the letting agent, who may be able to help you.

Take your own legal action

  • You can complain about noise nuisance directly to a Magistrates’ court under Section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. There are steps that you have to follow and there are costs involved. Further information is available in the Taking your own action leaflet.
  • You can take other private legal action, and you may be able to claim compensation. However, taking someone to court can be expensive. There may be court fees and you may have to pay a solicitor. You may therefore wish to:
    • seek legal advice from a solicitor
    • get some free legal advice from a law centre or Citizens’ Advice.

Complain to the Council

Other Services in Cornwall Council may also be able to help you with your noise complaint. Please see the following webpages for further information.

  • Licensing Service. Information on licensed entertainment venues such as pubs, clubs and festivals. It may be possible for you to ask for a licence review.
  • The Safer Cornwall partnership. Information on anti-social behaviour that may be causing you alarm, harassment or distress
  • Planning Service. Information on how to report noise that may be controlled by a planning condition. This could apply for the construction stage of large development sites. You can check if the location of the work has approved planning permission by using the online planning register. Here, you can look at the consent document to see if there are noise conditions attached. You can then report a breach of planning control.

Noise nuisance complaints that we are not able to deal with:

  • Everyday reasonable household noise, such as:
    • footsteps
    • doors closing
    • children playing
    • babies crying
    • people talking
    • reasonable use of household appliances, including lawn mowers etc.
  • DIY undertaken at reasonable times and frequencies.
  • Reasonable noise associated with the normal and lawful operation of a business or venue, such as:
    • day-time deliveries
    • animal noise on a farm
  • Reasonable building noise that takes place between 8am and 6pm on weekdays and 8am to 1pm on Saturdays
  • People noise, such as voices in the street, or in public open spaces, including those playing or watching sport
  • Noise from wild animals/birds, including seagulls
  • One-off incidents (unless related to a sounding alarm)
  • Traffic noise, including noise from moving vehicles.
  • Aircraft noise (apart from model aircraft noise) either in the air and/or on the ground. Government advice is to contact the airport/heliport operator if you wish to make a complaint.
  • Political demonstrations and demonstrations about a cause
  • Premises occupied by the armed forces or visiting forces
  • Certain types of industry, such as landfill sites, where noise is regulated under an Environmental Permit.

Noise that is dealt with by other Agencies

If your complaint is about noise from a large industrial installation, the noise may be controlled by the Environment Agency. (This includes waste facilities). This may be controlled through a condition in the Environmental Permit. You can check the public register as follows:

  • Industrial installations such as:
    • refineries
    • food and drink factories
    • large-scale intensive farming (such as poultry or pigs)
  • Waste operations such as:
    • recycling centre
    • scrapyard
    • waste incinerator
    • skip hire etc.

Your neighbourhood policing team can deal with complaints of:

  • noisy exhausts
  • racing vehicles
  • radios in moving vehicles

We can deal with complaints of:

Unreasonable noise from:

  • premises (including land)
  • parked vehicles and equipment/machinery in the street

Examples include, but are not restricted to unreasonable noise from:

  • Intruder alarms
  • Neighbour noise such as:
    • regular rowdy parties
    • persistent dog barking
    • DIY at unsuitable times
    • house alarm
    • late night music
  • Entertainment noise including live bands and recorded music
  • Building noise, for example a generator, night or weekend working
  • Noise from business premises, including extraction system, early morning deliveries
  • Industrial noise such as a generator or wind turbine
  • Sport and leisure activities including from skateboard parks and clay target shooting
  • Noise from farming activities such as bird scarers not operating in accordance with the NFU code of practice
  • Street noise from parked vehicles, such as car alarms, noisy car repairs, parked HGV refrigeration units

How we investigate your noise complaint

  • We take an engagement approach to our investigations. This is by:
    • speaking with the person causing the noise
    • explaining the impact on the community
    • encourage them to change their behaviour or take steps to reduce or stop the noise
    • Formal enforcement will always be a last resort.
  • We may decide that the noise being complained about does not meet the legal criteria for formal enforcement. We will let you know if this is the case.
  • We may need to install noise monitoring equipment. This would be to record noise that occurs during the evening or at night, or only at weekends.
  • However, where enforcement is required this is usually in the form of a notice that describes what needs to be done to reduce the noise.
  • A requirement to stop the noise completely is unlikely, where the activity itself is reasonable in the circumstances.
  • The person causing a nuisance may appeal the notice. In such cases, a Magistrate will decide if the requirements of the notice should still apply.
  • We will investigate if you complain that the person causing the problem has not complied with the requirements of the notice.

Please note that we do not provide an out of hours service, other than by prior arrangement for existing cases, and only where considered necessary.

What you will have to do

  • In most cases you will be required to complete a nuisance diary for a period of at least two weeks before we start the investigation. 
  • The nuisance diary will be available to you once you have made a formal complaint and reported a noise nuisance.
  • You may also be asked to complete the nuisance diary throughout the investigation period.
  • If we serve an enforcement notice you will need to complete a witness statement and may need to attend court if the notice is appealed.
  • If we prosecute the person if they continue to not comply with the requirements of the notice, you will need to attend court as a witness.

Report a noise nuisance

Please ensure you have read the content of this webpage before you decide to report a noise nuisance. We will not investigate your noise complaint if:

  • You report any noise that we have listed on this webpage as something that we are not able to deal with
  • You provide anonymous or false contact details
  • You don’t know where the noise is coming from
  • You are not willing to fill in a nuisance diary when requested

Report a noise nuisance

Please refer to our Privacy Policy for details on how we handle your data.

Noise Complaint Data

Please see the link below for statistical data on the number of Noise Complaints received by Cornwall Council:

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