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Information Centre

Noisy Neighbours

According to a 2008 survey, more than 1.1m UK neighbours have complained about noise. The first step for anyone disturbed by recurring noise from neighbours is to keep a diary of what the noise was and when the noise started and stopped. Whilst this diary is being maintained, a visit to the Local Council's office should be made to collect any booklets there providing Noisy Neighbour guidance. This guidance must be followed and the diary must be maintained. Since the noisy neighbour may be unaware of causing any disturbance, the guidance is likely to suggest the matter is first brought to the attention of the noisy neighbour, so giving an opportunity to moderate and bring a potentially swift conclusion to the matter.

If, after such action, the diary shows a continuing pattern of disturbance, it must be brought to the attention of an environmental health officer responsible for noise. This is best accomplished by making an appointment to meet the officer and, following any such meeting, a copy of the diary should be published to the officer for consideration. A written reply should be made however due to workload, this may take a while; the diary must still be maintained. The officer may advise that the Council will take action under the Environmental Protection Act and this is most likely if the neighbour is a trade or a business and that trade or business will be obliged to abate noise using the best practicable means. The officer may advise that no powers exist if noise arises from household activities such as ongoing DIY or ongoing parties.

Tackling anti-social behaviour, including disturbance arising from noise, is accomplished by a "multi-agency" approach being taken jointly by the local authority and the police. Particular structures vary according to region. The procedure normally taken by the multi-agency is to first send a warning letter; this is followed by the drawing up of either a Parental Control Agreement (making parents responsible for their child's behaviour if aged less than 10 years) or otherwise an Acceptable Behaviour Contract (ABC).

An acceptable behaviour contract is a voluntary agreement between anyone committing anti-social behaviour and the multi-agency, normally comprising the local planning authority, local police authority and where applicable, local housing trusts and associations. Conditions that address anti-social behaviour are agreed at an informal meeting held to draw up the contract. The problem behaviour is discussed in detail and remedies to stop the behaviour are considered.

A breech of the contract is considered to be a serious matter and can lead to an Anti Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) being sought in court. An ASBO can last for a minimum period of two years and a maximum period of life. The order contains conditions that prohibit certain acts of anti-social behaviour or can exclude someone from a particular area. A breech of an ASBO is an arrestable offence and carries a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment and/or a fine for adults and a two year detention and training order for juveniles (under 18 years). The contact details for anti-social behaviour co-ordinators should be available from the applicable local planning and police authority.