Types of noise

Noise accounts for most of the complaints that local councils and the Environment Agency receive about environmental pollution, and it is a major source of stress. How we deal with noise depends on the type of noise, the time, and whether this is a first-time complaint or a recurring problem.

Commercial premises

Commercial premises (businesses) must be able to show that they are using the best practicable means of preventing noise nuisance.

If a potential noise problem is identified, it may be necessary for officers to monitor the situation and determine if work practices or the machinery used are adequate. 

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 allows us to serve a statutory nuisance abatement notice where it is satisfied that a statutory nuisance exists or is likely to occur. A statutory nuisance abatement notice is a legal document that requires those responsible for the nuisance to abate it. Failure to comply with such a notice is a criminal offence.

We also investigate complaints about noise nuisance caused by vehicle movements (deliveries), music, noisy fans and air handling equipment.

Licensed premises

Problems usually arise where licensed premises are close to residential premises or share adjoining structures. Entertainment noise can break out from the licensed premises or be transmitted through the structure to the adjoining premises, where it can cause problems.

Other than in exceptional circumstances, the Council expects that noise associated with regulated entertainment, which takes place between the hours of 11pm and 9am or which takes place on a frequent basis at any time, should be controlled to such a level that the noise will be inaudible at all times inside noise-sensitive properties in the vicinity of the licensed premises.

Building structure, design and layout

Specialist sound insulation and other changes to the building structure, design and layout may be appropriate to sufficiently control noise. The advice of an acoustic consultant is important to ensure that adequate measures are implemented. 

Before carrying out any internal or external alterations to the building, you should consult us to find out whether permission is required.

Party noise

A party can be an enjoyable celebration, or it can be a serious nuisance to the whole neighbourhood. Nobody objects if a party is well-organised and well-run.

Serious noise nuisance

If you are affected by a noisy party we may be able to help. Officers will usually visit your premises in order to assess the level of noise. If they feel that the noise is a nuisance in the first instance they will visit the premises where the party is taking place and request that the music is turned down. Usually this informal approach works well as party organisers are sometimes unaware of the amount of noise that is being made.

If the organiser fails to turn down the music we may serve either an abatement notice or a fixed penalty notice. Please see our section on Formal notices.

Construction noise

Under the Control of Pollution Act 1974, we can impose requirements as to what times noisy work may be carried out, and the methods of work used.

In Hackney these times are:

  • Monday to Friday - 8am to 6pm
  • Saturday - 8am to 1pm
  • Sundays and Bank Holidays - no working

In certain cases permission may be granted for work outside these hours, such as for: police traffic restrictions, special crane erection or emergencies.

Construction noise can include noise from demolition and refurbishment as well as building works. Legally speaking, noise normally includes vibration.

Section 61 consent

Section 61 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 allows developers and their contractors to apply for permission for noise generating activities during construction.

It takes into account the methods of construction that will be used, the hours of work and what the levels of construction noise are likely to be at noise-sensitive premises.

Apply for Section 61 consent

You should read the information on this page before applying for Section 61 consent.

What types of works are eligible?

Section 61 prior consent applies to:

  • the erection, construction, alteration, repair or maintenance of buildings, structures or roads
  • breaking up, opening or boring under any road or adjacent land in connection with the construction, inspection, maintenance or removal of works
  • demolition or dredging
  • any work of engineering construction

What are the benefits?

By obtaining Section 61 consent and complying with the agreed conditions, a contractor avoids the risk of being served with a notice under the terms of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 or the Environmental Protection Act 1990. However, breaching the conditions may lead to prosecution.

How should noise be managed?

Contractors should use a best practicable means approach to managing and assessing construction noise. This means they have to do all they can to keep the noise at nearby noise-sensitive premises low. This can include:

  • using the appropriate equipment for a particular task
  • maintaining machinery and equipment
  • putting up noise barriers or screens

Noise surveys

As part of the Section 61 application you have to provide predicted noise levels at the front of the nearest noise-sensitive premises over the proposed project period. These predicted noise levels are calculated on the basis of the equipment being used at any part of the project, and the length of time the equipment is used.

Predicted noise levels of the proposed works are then normally used as the basis for setting guideline noise levels within the consent.

Noise monitoring during the proposed work

Contractors must monitor noise, and where necessary, vibration, for the duration of the works. The monitoring regime should be agreed in advance as part of the consent application.

Work outside the normal construction times

In general the normal working hours for noisy construction activities are Monday to Friday 8am-6pm and Saturday 8am-1pm.

Works outside of these hours are only agreed if there are health and safety and operational constraints and clear justification is provided.

Changes to the proposed work

Section 61 consent allows the contractor to apply for a dispensation to take into account any major changes arising once works have started under an approved consent. The application for the dispensation is required at least 14 days in advance of the start date of the proposed works. The contractor should include reasons for the changes. Minor changes are treated as a variation, which is normally processed within 7 days in advance of the proposed works.

Is community engagement necessary?

The contractor is required to provide information to local residents in the form of a meeting, drop-in centre, or letter drops prior to the proposed works, so that adequate details of the project are given.

How should public complaints be handled?

The contractor is responsible for responding to complaints within an adequate time-frame and where appropriate providing details of corrective action taken. There should be regular meetings and correspondence between the contractor and the council to monitor the progress of the works, to consider any concerns or complaints and to review noise monitoring results.

How long does it take to decide an application?

You must provide sufficient information about the proposed works to avoid any delays. You may attach separate documents with the required details.

Applications should be processed within 28 days of receipt. We aim to process smaller applications within 14 days.

The consent will either be:

  • accepted in its entirety
  • accepted but with additional and/or amended conditions imposed
  • refused

Noise-sensitive premises

Noise levels should be predicted at locations identified on the site plan and, in particular, at nearest noise-sensitive premises identified beyond the site boundary. This will include:

  • homes
  • schools
  • hospitals
  • places of worship
  • businesses that have a particular sensitivity to noise

Worst day and average day predictions

Predictions should include worst day and average day noise levels.

Worst day levels are the noise levels generated over one day whilst the construction (or other) activities are at the nearest point to any identified noise-sensitive premises, taking into account any barriers or enclosures.

Average day levels are the noise levels averaged over one week. They take into account:

  • any variation in location
  • the amount of time the activities take on different days
  • any noise barriers or enclosures

Different stages or phases may require the prediction of additional worst and average day levels.

Report noise

If you are troubled by noise, please contact us. You can also complete our report excessive noise e-form:

The action we undertake depends on the nature of the problem, the type of noise, the time it takes place, and whether this is a first-time complaint or a recurring problem.


Page updated: 20/03/2016 13:54:45