The proposals are mostly intended to implement recommendations made by an official working party on noise pollution in October 1990 (ENDS Report 189, pp 31-2). But the DoE has also mooted limited amendments of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 which would ease control of statutory nuisances in general.
The main proposals are as follows:
The new power would follow the existing scheme in section 80. For example, abatement notices could be served in anticipation of a noise nuisance occurring or recurring as well as after it had occurred. In addition, the DoE has proposed that local authority officials should be empowered to gain access to a vehicle or item of plant in order to stop a noise, and to supervise the removal of a vehicle with a malfunctioning alarm.
Two changes are proposed to these provisions. One would give the Secretary of State a power to amend by regulation the times when loudspeakers may be used in the street for purposes other than advertising a trade or business. At the same time, local authorities would be given a power to grant consent to their use outside those hours in specific cases.
Local authorities have since been lobbying the DoE to restore the old provision, arguing that they might otherwise be deterred from taking action to abate nuisances. The DoE has now concurred, and proposed giving them a power with the same effect as the 1936 provision.
The proposals will require primary legislation, and it was no coincidence that a Bill to give effect to them received its first reading in the Commons on 10 June. The Bill is being promoted under the Private Member's procedure by Andrew Hunter (Con, Basingstoke), with support from another eleven Tory MPs. It is due to have a second reading on 22 January.