The Environmental Health Service deals with an average of 1900 complaints a year from residents in South Tyneside. Modern day living and great advances in the the design of home comforts and the capabilities of technology, such as home cinema systems, now means that we, as a society are becoming noisier than ever!
Research has shown that nearly a third of people in Britain are annoyed by neighbour noise, and for 14% it has an impact on quality of life. Roughly half of noise makers claim to be unaware they are making a noise that is causing disturbance.
Alarms going off accidentally can be extremely annoying - often waking up an entire neighbourhood.
In London key holders must be registered for alarms. New laws now allow all local authorities in England and Wales to designate areas where premises with intruder alarms must register a key holder, who should be available if an alarm goes off accidentally.
If you have a car or intruder alarm, make sure it is properly fitted, regularly maintained and has a cut out. Whether it is obligatory under law or not, registering a key holder for your premises with your local authority can save you aggravation and expense if your alarm goes off accidentally when you are out or away.
This is behaviour that disturbs others. If you are leaving a pub, bar, club, party or friend's house - be considerate - say your good byes quietly. Avoid shouting, slamming doors, revving car engines - especially at night. Noise is generally only one element of anti-social behaviour - and there are now laws to deal with behaviour that is judged to be anti-social.
Dogs only bark if they are not happy. If dogs are barking persistently there is a reason for it. If you are disturbed by barking dogs - first approach the owners. If the dogs bark when they are left their owners may well not realise there is a problem. If this fails, or you are not happy about approaching the owners, your local environmental health department should be able to help.
If you have dogs that bark - help is available, officers at South Tyneside Council can advise you on what you can do.
Home maintenance is essential, and home improvement a popular pastime. Much DIY or building work can be very noisy however, so consider your neighbours when you are carrying out work. Let them know if you plan to do anything that involves work on party walls or floors or that will be extremely noisy - eg floor sanding. It helps if you can agree a time for work when it will least disturb them. Avoid drilling and banging late at night and early in the morning.
The trend towards hard and laminated flooring has been the cause of an increasing number of complaints about noise. If you are considering fitting hard flooring, you should carefully consider the potential impact on your neighbours - particularly if you live in a terraced house or flat. Make sure that it will not increase noise impact on your neighbours, and that any sound insulation fitted is effective. In many dwellings the fitting of hard flooring is prohibited by the lease.
If you suffer from noise from hard flooring, first approach your neighbours. Using rugs and removing shoes can reduce the impact noise on hard floors but will probably not completely solve the problem. If you live in a flat check the lease. If you do not own your home, take the matter up with your landlord. In some cases, where buildings have poor sound insulation, carpet may be the only solution.
There are many different musical tastes and we have increasingly powerful equipment for reproducing sound. Remember that your favourite tunes may not be to the taste of your neighbours. Make sure speakers are away from party walls and floors, and keep the volume reasonable - taking into account the time of day.
If you play a musical instrument and need to practice, consider carefully where and when. If you tell your neighbours that you will be making a noise, and agree what days and times will cause them least disturbance, you are less likely to have complaints.
We all hear noise from our neighbours from time to time - it is a part of everyday life and keeps our neighbourhoods vibrant. However, too much noise in the wrong place at the wrong time can cause friction between neighbours. This can be voices, impact noise from floors and doors, DIY and gardening activities, noisy domestic appliances. Remember that no home is completely sound proof - and we all make noise sometimes.
If noise from your neighbours is disturbing you, approach them politely and explain the problem. They may well not realise the effect they are having. If you really feel this is inappropriate, you can contact the Council on 0191 427 7000.
Noise and vibration from plant and machinery
The legislation that applies to noise from construction and demolition work is different to that used to control most other types of noise nuisance. This is in recognition of the fact that a certain amount of noise, disruption and disturbance may be inevitable, particularly in respect of large projects.
The legislation which Environmental Health uses doesn't cover noise and vibration from lorries travelling to and from the site whilst they are on the public highway. Complaints regarding accumulations of mud on the road from construction sites should be directed to the Council's Highways Section by ringing 0191 427 7000.
Judgment takes into account the impact the problem is having on the complainant, the intensity, cause, type, duration, time of day, noise background levels and whether the contractor is using the best practical means to minimise the impact the work is having on the neighbours.
Situations which may particularly require a greater degree of compromise include:
emergency works such as the making safe of dangerous structures or attending to gas leaks
certain road works such as resurfacing of major roads at night where daytime working would cause immeasurable traffic congestion
methods of working which significantly foreshorten or minimise disruption such as out of hours repairs to water or electric supplies serving a large number of premises
Where nuisance is established, initial action is to give informal advice. Should that not be heeded, formal Notices may be served specifying certain requirements
Notices may specify:
plant or machinery which may or may not be used
the hours during which work may be carried out
maximum noise levels which may be emitted
methods of working
However, the use of the best practical means available to carry out the work always has to be considered and if, under any given situation, those means are being employed, any continuing problems may well be incapable of resolution.