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Report a noise, smoke or other nuisance

We investigate complaints of noise, smoke, dust, smell, fumes, light and insect nuisance.

The complaint could be:

  • late night noise from a neighbour's stereo
  • smoke from persistent garden bonfires
  • continuous smells from bad farming practices
  • fumes from a processing plant
  • excessive dust from a construction site
  • intrusive light from a neighbour's security light
  • flies from neighbouring food premises

Noise complaints

Everyone's perception of noise, or unwanted sound, is different. It's not just a question of sound levels in decibels, but of what is acceptable to the average person. What one person considers unacceptable may not seem unreasonable to somebody else.

If you are being disturbed by noise you should first try to have a friendly conversation with the person causing it – they may not be aware that they are causing a problem.

Neighbour noise leaflet

If you are unable to resolve the issue, you should contact us to assist you. We have a duty to deal with statutory nuisances, which are defined by the Environmental Protection Act 1990 as "prejudicial to health or a nuisance" – in other words, noise that would be considered a nuisance to the average person, rather than noise of a specific volume.

Recording the nuisance

Most complaints that we receive are about matters that are intermittent. In these cases we will normally ask you to keep a record of all incidents of the nuisance on a diary sheet for 21 days detailing when the issue is affecting you. It will require you to detail the date, time, duration, and a description of the noise each time it occurs.

For noise-related problems, you can use the Noise App on your smartphone to record samples of the noise and send us these.

Noise complaints can also be completed manually using the noise nuisance record sheets. You will need to return these to or post them to:

Housing & Public Protection Service
North Herts Council
PO Box 10613

Investigation and formal action

Once we have received your diary sheets/noise app recordings, if our investigation confirms that there is a serious problem, this is called a statutory nuisance. We will normally serve a formal warning notice (abatement notice) which is a legal document requiring the person responsible to stop causing the problem.

If the abatement notice is not complied with in the timescale that we have set, we can prosecute the person causing the problem. Depending on the circumstances of the case, we may take default action to remedy the problem, for example by seizing noise making equipment.

This is a criminal investigation and with all such investigations we need evidence to proceed with a formal action.

The person whom the notice has been served on can appeal to the courts if they believe the notice should not have been served.

DIY and Construction noise

Noise from DIY, construction or building activities is often unavoidable. The below leaflet provides advice and guidance on the following:

  • What we define as 'noisy activities'
  • Reasonable times for DIY & building works
  • How to avoid causing a nuisance
  • What Environmental Health can do

Bird scarers

The use of bird scarers is not illegal. However, they are essential for protecting crops. If a farmer or landowner is using bird scarers, they must ensure they are not causing a statutory nuisance to others and that they are adhering to the code of practice produced by the National Farmers Union (NFU). Please see below for further guidance.

Bird Scarers information

Report a noise problem to us

Bonfires, open fires and wood-burning stoves

There is no specific law that makes it illegal to have a bonfire or prohibits the times they can be lit. However, we will take action if a smoke nuisance from a bonfire is caused. See our leaflet below for more information.

Bonfire leaflet

Defra has published a practical guide that aims to reduce the negative environmental and health impacts of using open fires and wood-burning stoves.

Record sheets