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Noise and nuisance


Noise is an inevitable consequence of today’s society. The cost of noise pollution in the UK is estimated to be between £7-£10 billion per year and comprises annoyance to the public, adverse health effects and loss of productivity.

Statutory Nuisance covers many types of nuisance including neighbor and neighborhood noise, dust and odour, lighting and insects. A statutory nuisance occurs when the relevant condition is, or is likely to become, prejudicial to people’s health or interferes with a person’s legitimate use and enjoyment of land.

The case for government action

  • Noise not only affects the quality of life; there is also emerging evidence it also directly affects health, particularly cardiovascular impacts.
  • 43% of people feel noise affects their private home life.
  • Local authorities have duties to manage neighbourhood noise and nuisance. A guidance document is required for each nuisance to allow the Environmental Health Practitioners to carry out their duties in line with the relevant legislation.

The current situation and background

  • The Noise Policy Statement for England provides a wide framework aimed at enabling noise management decisions to be made that ensure noise levels do not place an unacceptable burden on society.
  • Local authorities have duties to manage noise and nuisance locally.
  • The 2002 EU Environmental Noise Directive (END) aims to “avoid, prevent or reduce on a prioritised basis the harmful effects, including annoyance, due to exposure to environmental noise” and requires strategic noise maps and noise action plans to be prepared every 5 years.
  • There are three main requirements of the END:
    • Strategic noise maps to be produced every 5 years;
    • Noise action plans based on the results of the mapping;
    • Information to be made available to the public.

In early 2010 Noise Action Plans covering the mapped areas were published and set out the principles of managing environmental noise in the noisiest areas. The process to be followed by the local authorities, the Highways Agency and the railway industry is described so further noise mitigation actions can be undertaken, if required, in the context of government policy on sustainable development.

  • The Noise Action Plans also describe the process for identifying and managing quiet areas aiming to preserve environmental noise quality where it is good.
  • Responsibility for implementation of the Environmental Noise Directive is a devolved matter. However, Defra has the overall UK responsibility for noise policy.

Relevant legislation and regulation

Page last modified: 26 October 2010