...or a classic legislative nonsense!!Once upon a time there was a New Labour government. Now this government had already been in power for a while and was scratching around for ideas to turn into new laws. Governments do this when they've been in power too long and run out of ideas. They have to do something if only to justify their existence.
Some years ago it became apparent that with modern audio technology getting louder and more available people were beginning to have issues with their neighbours playing loud music at inordinately high levels and at anti-social times. In addition noise undisciplined behaviour and modern DIY tools could if occurring repeatedly and at anti-social times be included.
The answer was to bring in laws and guidance for local authorities to use to deal with issues that couldn't be resolved with mediation and sound proofing. Very often sound proofing in the 'victims' home was expensive and impractical and the perpetrator too may well have been unable or reluctant to install it.
The Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA) arrived and made local authority Environmental Health Officers (EHO) take "all reasonable steps" to investigate a noise complaint. Once the EHO has judged that a noise constitutes a 'statutory noise nuisance' by reason of it being "noise emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance", the EHO has the duty to notify the perpetrator of the offence and advise on ways of reducing the nuisance. If this fails then the EHO issues a notice requiring the perpetrator to cease the nuisance activity. Failing to comply meant that fines and confiscation of the noise making equipment could be applied to the perpetrator.
This is all very laudable as it gives individuals a means of restoring a life free from the stress and often aggravation caused by noisy neighbours.
In 2003 the Anti-social Behaviour Act amended the Noise Act 1996 to specify the period between 23:00 and 07:00 for action against noise as Anti-social Behaviour with its associated penalties and restraints, where noise is emitted from dwellings and gardens. We're still talking about problem neighbours here. What has occurred since is that the term neighbour has been extended to include any premises and not just the house next door. Worse, the Noise Act was extended in 2008 to include noise from licensed premises.
None of the above takes into account a preexisting premises that have traditionally produced noise. These could be an engineering works, workshops and other light industry. Leisure and religious premises such as dance halls, churches as well as pubs and clubs.
We now have the ridiculous situation where a person moves into a house next door to a pub advertising live music 3 nights a week and can destroy the business and livelihood of numbers of people through repeated complaints culminating in the service of a Noise Abatement Notice by the EHO.
This absurdity has finally been crowned with the news this week that Wrington All Saints Church in Somerset has had a Noise Abatement Notice served on it, preventing the clock from chiming every quarter hour between 23:00 and 07:00. Unfortunately this isn't possible due to the fact that the computer driving the chimes isn't capable of the variation.