Noise Control

Noise ControlThe Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 gives additional powers to the Council under the Noise Act 1996, to deal with certain types of noise.

Noise is an unavoidable part of everyday human life. Whether it is in town or countryside we are surrounded by noise most of the time. While we must accept a certain degree of noise in our daily lives there are some types of noise that are unacceptable. Often people will react to noise in different ways. What can cause extreme annoyance to one person may hardly be noticed by another.

We will investigate nuisance complaints relating to both domestic and commercial premises. Every year we respond to over 200 noise nuisance complaints. The main complaints are:

  • Barking Dogs
  • Construction Site Noise
  • Entertainment Noise
  • Industrial / Commercial
  • Intruder Alarms
  • Neighbourhood Noise
  • Noise in the Street
  • Planning Applications

Many noise complaints can be resolved informally be approaching the person responsible for the noise. It is not unusual for them to be unaware that they are disturbing you. However, it may be unwise to make a complaint in the heat of the moment when you are tired, frustrated or angry – the situation could get out of hand. It is better to wait until later when the matter can be discussed calmly. However, informal solutions do not always work and people may have to resort to more formal ways of dealing with the problem; the Law can help.

A standard complaints procedure is followed during the investigation. Standard Complaints Procedure

The Environmental Health Service is also consulted in respect of planning applications to try and prevent excessive amounts of noise occurring in the first place.

Other Sources

The Environmental Health Service can investigate complaints from other sources such as bird scarers and ice cream van chimes.

Barking Dogs

All dogs bark, but loud or persistent barking and whining can cause a nuisance and lead to problems relaxing or sleeping, especially if you have a baby or young children. If you’re having problems with a barking dog, speak to the owner first before making a formal complaint. The problem may be caused by a dog being left on its own for long periods of time, so your neighbour may not be aware of the problem.

If this doesn’t help contact us and we will log your complaint and instigate an investigation. This includes writing to your neighbour to advise them that we are investigating the noise.

We may also ask you to keep a record of the dates and times of each disturbance. This helps our officers to work out the best time to hear the noise, as well as gathering important evidence which may be needed if legal action is required. We may also arrange to have tamper proof recording equipment left at your house.

Under the Pollution Control and Local Government (Northern Ireland) Order 1978, we can serve the owner with a Noise Abatement Notice if we feel the noise is a nuisance. This gives the owner a time limit to reduce the noise but, if it continues, they could face prosecution and a fine of up to £5,000.

For further advice on preventing constant dog barking, click to download the “Constant Dog Barking” information leaflet or Guidance to Dog Owners.

Constant Dog Barking
Guidance to Dog Owners

Construction Site Noise

A certain amount of noise is inherent in most types of construction and building operations, which can rarely be completely prevented. However, noise from construction sites can be very disturbing.

Councils can enforce hours of operation and noise levels on construction sites where noise is affecting residents or businesses in the area.

Contractors planning to undertake construction and demolition work can consult Environmental Health before proceeding, and ask them to make their requirements known. Further information is available by downloading the construction site noise advice leaflet.

Construction Site Noise Advice Leaflet

Entertainment Noise

Noise from licensed premises is a common cause for complaint especially during warm weather. The majority of complaints about noise from licensed premises are a result of ‘entertainment’ of some sort. This may be:

  • noise from live or recorded amplified music
  • television or video
  • musical instruments
  • smoking shelters
  • public address systems

Problems usually occur when the licensed premise is located within a residential area. Low frequency noise from music (the bass beat) can pass easily through a buildings structure.

Most complaints of this nature occur during the summer months when windows are left open for ventilation, and people use their gardens more. At night-time background noise levels fall and entertainment noise may be more noticeable and cause disturbance. Environmental Health can investigate complaints of this nature.

Guide to the Management of Noise from Licensed Premises

Industrial/Commercial Noise

Noise from industrial and commercial premises can disturb people living near by, particularly at night. Examples include:

  • Factory Noise
  • Entertainment Noise
  • Ventilation Systems

The Council can only take action if the noise is confirmed as a statutory nuisance. Noise will have to be assessed to establish if a nuisance exists. This assessment may involve using BS4142:1997 – Rating industrial noise affecting mixed residential and industrial areas.

This standard details a method for assessing whether noise from the industrial source is likely to give rise to complaints from people living in the neighbourhood. It comprises noise from the source with the background noise level. The likelihood of a complaint is defined as the margin between the measured and background noise.

Intruder Alarms

Intruder alarms are an effective way of protecting properties only if they are installed and maintained properly. However, fake alarms can be annoying to neighbours, especially when the occupiers are not at the property and the alarm rings for prolonged periods.

With the introduction of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 we have additional powers to deal with noisy alarms.  If the prolonged ringing of an alarm is causing a noise nuisance, the Council may take legal action to resolve the disturbance and prevent it recurring. You are required by law to reimburse the Council for the cost of any action taken to silence the alarm. You may also be prosecuted for causing a nuisance.

We will be able to silence the alarm, and recover the costs from the alarm owner, if

  • it has been sounding for more than 20 minutes continuously or intermittently for more than one hour
  • it is causing reasonable annoyance to those living or working nearby
  • a keyholder for the property cannot be contacted.

If complaints are received about alarms in these areas and a keyholder details are not available, then the owner can be fined.  You can register your details, or a key holder’s details with us for free.

This means we can contact you or your key holder if your alarm goes off and we receive a complaint about it.  All key holders must be able to be contacted by phone, live within 20 minutes travel of the property and know how the alarm system works.  You should also tell us if your details change.  Intruder alarms are ideal for protecting your home from burglaries but they can be irritating to others if they go off for no apparent reason and aren’t quickly switched off.

This also applies to car and smoke alarms.

If you are disturbed by a noisy alarm contact us and we can check to see if we have any details about the property and, if we do, we will contact the key holder and ask them to sort out the problem.  If we don’t have any key holder information, we may call an engineer or a locksmith to help us silence the alarm.  If you are the alarm owner, you could end up being billed for this cost, whether it is a private home or a commercial building.

Alarm owners should do the following to avoid causing a noise nuisance:

  • Register your keyholder details with the Environmental Health Department and/or the PSNI. In the event of an alarm sounding unnecessarily and complaints being received, the situation can be easily resolved with the alarm being switched off, preventing formal action by the Council.
  • Make sure your alarm has a working automatic cut off device within 20 minutes of the alarm sounding a device must stop the alarm being heard by people living near the property.
  • Opt for an alarm that includes a flashing light to indicate when the alarm has been activated.
  • Ensure the alarm is kept in good working order.
  • For further information, click on the Intruder Alarm Information Leaflet.

Intruder Alarms leaflet
Register Keyholder Details with Environmental Health
Register Keyholder Details with PSNI
Code of Practice for Audible Intruder Alarms issued by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland

Neighbourhood Noise

We deal with complaints about neighbourhood noise within the  Council area.
Excessive noise from neighbours can be frustrating and can cause a lot of unnecessary stress and worry.
We can investigate the following types of noise:

    • Playing of loud amplified music or loud TV
    • DIY activities for prolonged periods or at unreasonable hours

DIY Activities

Noise Disturbance Leaflet
Noise Disturbance – Russian
Noise Disturbance – Chinese

Noise in the Street

We can investigate complaints about noise from vehicles, machinery or equipment in the street such as vehicle security alarms or portable generators.

We can issue an abatement notice on the person responsible, giving a timeframe for them to reduce or stop the noise.

General traffic noise from vehicles travelling on roads is not covered by this legislation.

Planning Applications

Planning applications are received by the Environmental Health Department for consultation. These are checked to see if it would be appropriate to build noise prevention measures into the development.

This may often involve the agent/applicant employing the services of an acoustic consultant. Further advice is available by downloading the Advice Note on Acoustic Reports.

Advice Note on Conducting a Noise Impact Assessment 


When a statutory noise nuisance has been established by an authorised officer a Notice of Abatement is served on the offender. Breach of this Notice is an offence. For domestic premises the maximum fine in a Magistrates Court for breaching a Notice is £5,000. For business, industrial or trade premises the fine is £20,000.

The Noise Act 1996 (as amended) provides additional powers to Councils in dealing with certain types of noise complaints. Noise from domestic premises (eg noisy parties) during the hours of 11.00 pm and 7.00 am where an Officer has confirmed an offence has occurred, can be dealt with by way of a Warning Notice. Failure to comply with a Warning Notice can result in a Fixed Penalty of £110. Similar powers are available to deal with night-time noise from entertainment premises and the Fixed Penalty in this case is £500. Officers also have the power to prosecute and seize noise-making equipment.

In relation to Noise Act offences the authorised officer must witness the offence.

Make a Noise Complaint

If you have a complaint that you would like us to investigate or just want advice, there are a number of ways you can contact the Environmental Health Department:

Telephone: 028 3752 9626
Textphone: 18001 028 3752 600

Fax: 028 3752 7184

Noise Complaint Record Form