Noise nuisance can be the cause of great stress and dispute between those involved. People are entitled to a certain level of peace and quiet in their homes and loud noise levels are not acceptable.
Most noise complaints are dealt with informally, but should this not be possible the Council can take formal action. There is no set level of noise which is too loud or that will automatically result in action being taken by the Council. There is also no set time when music or any other sort of noisy activity must end.
Noise problems we can investigate generally fall into the following:
There are a variety of options to consider when residential noise becomes a problem.
Try speaking to the person causing the problem, many people don’t realise that they’re making a noise which is disturbing other people and they are only too pleased to make amends.
If this is difficult then the West Kent Mediation Service is highly skilled in negotiating between neighbours where dialogue has broken down. This option needs both parties to be willing to work towards a solution to the problem.
Many complaints received involve rented properties where the owner is either a housing association or private landlord. The owners of premises are responsible for ensuring that their tenants do not cause a nuisance and for enforcing conditions of tenancy agreements.
If you are a Town and Country Housing Group tenant and you have a problem with noise you should first contact your housing manager, they will do the first part of the investigation and if necessary work with the Council to decide on the best action to take.
The Environmental Protection team will investigate any complaint regarding noise issues. We will try to resolve the problem informally but have powers to take legal action should this be necessary.
This can come from a wide range of sources and may be straight forward or complicated to resolve. Generally commercial noise can be divided into the categories of machinery and construction, or music from pubs and clubs.
Machinery and construction noise includes any machinery such as air conditioning, extractor fans, refrigeration units, generators, building sites, early morning deliveries, bird scarers, agricultural noise.
We work with companies involved in noise generating activities to ensure that any disturbance to residents is kept to an acceptable level. For example, it is impossible to demolish a building without causing some disturbance. It is when an unreasonable level of noise is made at unsociable hours that we can get involved and deal with the problem.
Music from pubs and clubs can often be a cause of complaint. The Environmental Protection team works with the pubs and clubs within the borough to prevent problems, we also work with our Licensing team when needed.
Local authorities have no enforcement responsibilities for noise issues arising from aircraft noise. If you wish to complain about noise from aircraft you will need to complain directly to the airport. For the majority of air traffic over Tunbridge Wells this would be aircraft arriving at Gatwick airport.
Car and burglar alarms
We receive numerous complaints about faulty car and burglar alarms.
Car alarms should deactivate after five minutes. Should we receive a complaint about a car alarm, we will attempt to contact the owner to arrange for its deactivation. However, if this is not possible the officer will have to serve a legal notice on the car and arrange for the alarm to be deactivated.
If the alarm can’t be silenced the car may be removed to a secure location where the noise will not cause disturbance. The vehicle owner will be charged for the costs of disconnection, and since many of these cases happen at unsociable hours the charges can be high.
House alarms should deactivate after 20 minutes and two key holders should be registered with the Police. When we receive a complaint we try to contact the owner or the key holders to deactivate the alarm. However, if this is not possible the officer will have to serve legal notice and arrange for the alarm to be disconnected by a specialist contractor.
Occasionally it may be necessary to gain access to a property in order to silence the alarm; in this case a magistrate will be asked to issue a warrant to enter the premises. The owner of the house will be charged for the disconnection of the alarm, and since many of these cases happen at unsociable hours the charges can be high.
Car and house alarms can also be judged to cause a nuisance if they persistently go off even for short periods of time but on a regular basis. These are dealt with in the same way as general noise complaints and the owner may be required to have the alarm deactivated or repaired to avoid formal action by the Council.
Many of the cases that the team investigates involve noise which causes a problem at night. During the normal investigation of a complaint, night-time noise will be monitored using log sheets, noise monitoring equipment and, if necessary, officer visits. These will be pre-arranged between the case officer and the person who is complaining.
Noise we cannot deal with
- noise from aircraft
- noise caused by poor sound insulation
- noise from people in the street
- traffic noise
- noise from building sites operating within reasonable times (generally 08.00 to 18.00)
- noise from normal farming activities
- noise affecting commercial premises unless prejudicial to health
Report a noise nuisance
Use our online form to report a noise nuisance.
In an emergency or out of hours
This service is only operated to cover emergency problems, which includes noise affecting numerous people such as intruder and car alarms or noisy parties about which numerous individual complaints are received. Customers are advised that if the problem is one where the officer needs police support to ensure their safety such as a noisy party, the officer will only visit the site if the police are in attendance. Due to changes to police procedures it is likely that this support will not be provided. If this is the case the officer will witness the nuisance and take appropriate action the following working day.
The Council does not operate a call out service for dealing with noise complaints which are already being investigated, or which can be reported during office hours for investigation
Please be aware that the out of hour’s duty officer will be responding from home so it may take some time to arrive at the site. Please visit our contact us section for our emergency as well as normal operating contact details.