Noise complaints to local authorities rise again

Public complaints about noise from domestic sources, aircraft, railways and commercial premises all increased significantly last year, according to the annual environmental report of the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health. Complaint rates also rose for smoke emissions and nuisance deposits, but enforcement action by councils dropped off.

The statistics are based on returns from 50% of local authorities in 1999/2000, compared with 53% the previous year and continuing a downward trend. The report is also thinner than in past years, containing no data on compliance with the Clean Air Acts, the local air pollution control regime, drinking water quality or contaminated land.

  • Noise: Complaints about noise from domestic sources grew consistently from the early 1970s to the mid-1990s, reaching a record 5,051 per million people in 1996/97. The total for 1999/2000 was 4,734 per million - below the peak, but up 9% on the previous year.

    Nuisances were confirmed in one-sixth of the 121,348 cases reported, with 10,896 confirmed nuisances being resolved informally. More enforcement action was taken last year, with 4,201 notices served compared with 3,479 in 1998/99, and 262 prosecutions - 225 of them successful - compared with the previous year's 168.

    Complaints about noise from commercial sources increased by 8% to reach 902 per million last year, and local authorities responded with a 50% increase in the number of notices served to 821 and doubling the number of successful prosecutions to 30. The complaint rate increased by 12% for construction and demolition work, 20% for aircraft noise, and almost 30% for railway noise.

    Only 140 authorities reported that they run an out-of-hours noise complaints service, compared with 148 in 1998/99 and higher figures in earlier years.

  • Odours: The rate of complaint about odours from industrial sources increased by 7% during the year to 364 per million people, but remained below that in the last decade. Five successful prosecutions were taken and 51 notices served.

    Complaints against agricultural odours were steady at 170 per million people, although the number of notices served was, at 34, almost double that in 1998/99.

  • Nuisances: The rate of complaint about smoke emissions increased by almost 20% in 1999/2000 to reach 989 per million people, but 25% fewer abatement notices were served. There were fewer complaints about emissions of other pollutants such as fumes and dust.

    The rate of complaint about nuisances caused by "accumulations or deposits" increased by 9% during the year to reach 1,876 per million, with a total of 46,665 complaints received. Councils served 1,843 notices - 9% fewer than in 1998/99 - and secured six convictions.

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