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Noise pollution

Excessive noise can affect the quality of life.

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

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

Before action can be taken we have to be sure that the noise makes up 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

How to complain about noise

Complaints can be made to the Environmental Protection Team using the contact details on this page.

We will keep details of your name and address in the strictest confidence. Sometimes the person you have made a complaint about may guess who has made a complaint. Tey 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 stop 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 noise is coming from a property owned by a Social Landlord they will investigate the issue under the tenancy. We recommend that you contact them about issues with their tenant .

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

What happens next

If we are satisfied that a statutory nuisance exists we will serve a Noise Abatement Notice on the person(s) causing the problem. If work is required to meet the terms of the notice, a period of time will be allowed for the work to be carried out.

Failure to follow 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.

Types of noise nuisance we can normally investigate:

  • 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

Complaints which cannot be dealt with by the Environmental Health Department include:

  • Where the address or 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

Alternatives to legal action

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 may further sour the relationship between you and your neighbour. But, 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.

Noise complaints received

View the number and type of noise complaints received for the last three financial years and quarter 1 to quarter 3 of 2020-2021.

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