Noise problems

Noise from licensed premises

Entertainment in pubs and clubs is a traditional and important part of community life, bringing business for the licensee and for the local community.

However, noise disturbance from licensed premises is a common cause of complaints. They arise from a variety of different sources - from loud music, use of beer gardens and smoking shelters to raised voices, deliveries, and mechanical extract ventilation.

Residents living near to licensed premises should expect a certain amount of disturbance but not to the extent that it causes them a noise nuisance.

Modern amplification systems and music styles make noise an increasing problem. Some premises may be open longer and later than they used to be and the introduction of the smoking ban has created additional problems.

However, effective management can resolve these problems and ensure licensing conditions are met.

Complaints

If you are experiencing problems from licensed premises, we advise that you inform the premises directly to see if a resolution can be found and to give them an opportunity to address the issues. Often they are grateful for contact from individuals to them to reach a compromise between them running their business and your enjoyment of your property.

When this is not possible or it is ineffective report it to us and we will investigate.

Report a noise problem »

Under the Licensing Act any local resident or business owner can request the review of a premises Licence if it is felt that any of the licensing objectives are not being upheld, one of them being the prevention of public nuisance. A review can result in additional conditions being places on their premises licence, including changes in licensable activities or premises opening hours.

If you are experiencing crime and disorder from licensed premises please contact North Yorkshire Police on 999 or 101.

Noise assessments for premises holders

In preventing noise nuisance it is essential that the location, equipment and structure of your premises are suitable for the intended entertainment. In some areas, existing background noise levels will be very low and will reduce further during the night. Any noise created by licensed activities will seem louder and are more likely to disturb neighbours, especially when they are trying to sleep.

To fully understand the impact your premises has on local residents you will need to carry out a simple noise assessment. During opening hours - especially at night and before closing operate your establishment how you would wish to - walk around the external perimeter of your premises and to the boundary of the nearest noise sensitive property several times. If you can hear noise it is likely your neighbours will be hearing the same noise and complaints may follow.

Try to determine the source of the noise and how it is escaping from the premises.

And remember that if you have been subject to loud music for an hour or so, your hearing will not be as sensitive and noise levels can easily be underestimated. As part of the assessment also speak to your neighbours, who may be able to give you a valuable insight as to when specific noise problems occur.

Once the assessment is complete consider what controls you can put in place to reduce noise levels to an acceptable level, then repeat the assessment - Example of controls are listed in this leaflet.

A realistic noise assessment may show that your establishment is not suitable for the type of entertainment or hours of operation you wish to operate. In this case you may wish to employ a noise consultant to carry out a more detailed assessment. Contact the Council for a list of local providers or visit the Institute of Acoustics website ioa.org.uk.

Controlling music levels

  • The louder the music inside, the louder it is outside, so reduce and set lower volume levels.
  • Music is made up of many different frequencies. Low frequencies - or bass - travel more easily through windows and walls without being absorbed and are more likely to be heard outside. Reduce the bass levels on amplification equipment.
  • To permanently control music levels install a noise limiting device. There are a variety of systems available but make sure that you get the right one for your business. A unit suitable for pre recorded music may not be good for live bands. The device is set at a maximum noise level - chosen to ensure that noise cannot be heard outside or at nearby noise sensitive properties, and the system is then locked. Music played through this device will not be permitted to exceed this preset level. If it starts to increase a warning light will be triggered to warn the DJ to reduce the volume. If levels are not reduced the power is cut off and the music stopped. This is a good device for businesses with regular entertainment - karaoke, DJs or live bands.
  • Correctly position the speakers. Ideally they should not face any windows, external doors or be within conservatories. It is better to have lots of smaller speakers dotted around that can be individually controlled rather than one large powerful speaker.
  • If windows are open or even ajar, noise will escape regardless of the type of glazing, so make sure they are kept closed during entertainment events or kept locked to prevent opening.

Remember the Noise at Work Regulation 2005 also applies to your premises.

Adapting premises

Sometimes adaptations to the structure may be needed to prevent noise escaping:

  • upgrading windows to double or acoustic glazing will help contain more noise
  • fitting air conditioning units or mechanical ventilation will negate the need to open windows in warm stuffy environments. Mechanical ventilation units need to be positioned correctly, may need planning permission or require acoustic baffles to prevent creating further noise problems
  • consider creating an enclosed lobby to external doors, allowing entry through the first door which will close before the second door is open therefore containing sound
  • all external doors and emergency exits should be close fitting or acoustically sealed to prevent noise escaping.

If your premises share a party wall, floor or roof with a residential property specific sound insulation works to upgrade walls and ceilings to stop the transmission of noise may be necessary. You may need to consult the Fire Officer, Building Control Service or an acoustic specialist. It is important not to place speakers and TV units on to party structures, as noise will be transmitted directly through them.

Keep loudspeakers away from party walls and place on an absorbent material such as an acoustic rubber mat which will minimise noise transmitted through the floor. Speakers can also be hung from the ceiling.

Outdoor areas

Care must be taken when siting gardens, play areas, smoking shelters and barbecues to minimise potential nuisance to local residents. The main noise concerns will be during the evening but, depending on the circumstances, location and extent of your operations, day time noise may also become a problem - children’s play areas being one example.

  • Take care when positioning outside areas. If a smoking shelter is in the direct line of vision of a residential property noise will travel directly there. Placing the smoking shelter behind a structure or building will allow some of the noise to be absorbed. Close boarded fences and brick walls can be used in a similar way but consider bedroom windows. Tree planting offers no reduction in noise levels, but does provide a psychological reduction. Smoking shelters should be sited as far away from houses and gardens as possible.
  • Avoid loose gravel paths and timber decking which can create more noise than paving stones.
  • Attach rubber feet to chairs and tables.
  • Raised voices in a beer garden often cause problems and need management. Signs should be put up at exits and in beer gardens asking users to be considerate of local residents. Also consider restricting or supervising the number of people using these areas, or discourage their use after dark by providing minimal lighting and removing seating and heating.
  • Consider applying a curfew time to limit the use of outside areas - 9pm is a time when people, especially children, may be using their bedrooms. Speak to your neighbours to find out what is best for them.
  • Do not allow loud speakers in outside areas.
  • Control customers when they leave the building. Rowdy behaviour and raised voices can lead to complaints. Try reducing the volume or changing the type of music towards the end of the evening, or even switching it off 30 minutes before closing time. Encourage customers to leave in small numbers, discourage loitering or even offer to phone for taxis.

Consider how your customers leave and whether there is a different exit which does not go directly past residential properties. Place signs at exits asking customers to leave quietly or even relay a similar message through the public address system. Door staff should help minimise disturbance by actively managing entrances and exits.

Deliveries and storage

Deliveries and collections are noisy - the refrigeration units on delivery vehicles, the changing of barrels, the rattles of bottles and collection of refuse can all create problems. The most effective way to minimise impact is to make sure they occur at reasonable times - between 8am and 6pm. Also provide adequate internal night time storage to prevent storage outside late at night.

Machinery

When buying new machinery - chiller units, air conditioning or extract ventilation systems consider noise output and how and where it will be positioned. Chiller units may need to work through the night and noise levels which seem reasonable during the day may not be at 2am! Ideally machinery should be sited so that the building structure provides as much screening as possible for the neighbours. If this is not possible controls such as timers, silencers or acoustic enclosures can be used. Seek specialist advice from the installer, manufacturer or an acoustic specialist. Regular maintenance of these machines is essential to ensure noise levels are kept to a minimum. You may need planning permission to install new plant or equipment.

Enforcement

Please enjoy your entertainment, along with your customers, but remember - other people wish to enjoy their homes and gardens and ultimately the following controls can be used:

  • The Environmental Protection Act 1990 places a duty on the council to investigate complaints of noise nuisance. If a noise is found to be causing a statutory noise nuisance by affecting the health or materially interfering with the use and enjoyment of a neighbouring property then a legal notice will be served on the person responsible, requiring the abatement of the noise. Failure to comply with the notice can result in a fine of up to £20,000.
  • The Licensing Act 2003 requires that the activities of a licensable premises must prevent public nuisance. In submitting a licence application you will have been required to detail how you intend to achieve this. If complaints of nuisance are received and are shown to be justified your licence may be reviewed, revoked or have conditions attached to prevent further nuisance. If you fail to meet the conditions of your licence then you may be prosecuted. The maximum fine is £20,000 and/or 6 months imprisonment.
  • The Environmental Health team is also a statutory consultee for temporary event notices. If we have recived a noice complaint regarding a previous event it will be expected that you have put controls in place to prevent further complaints.
  • The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 allows a local authority to make a 24 hour closure order if it is believed that public nuisance is being caused by noise from licensed premises, and their closure is necessary to prevent the nuisance.

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Contact the Environmental Health team on 01609 767138 or download this information as a leaflet: