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    Memo of Understanding

    Investigation of Noise Complaints

    Protocol for investigation of noise complaints between Environmental Protection

    Team and Antisocial Behaviour Team

    1. Scope & Purpose

    The Environmental Protection Team (EP Team) and the Anti-social behaviour team (ASB Team) investigate noise related matters under different legislative requirements. The EP Team have regard to statutory nuisance under Sec 79 / 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 whilst ASB seek controls under the Anti Social Behaviour Act 2003 and the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.

    Currently there is a procedural grey area which can result in complaints being made to and investigated by both teams at the same time, duplicating work for both the customers and investigating officers.

    The purpose of this protocol is to enhance current good working relationships and practices and clarify the types of noise dealt with by each team thereby ensuring;

    Consistency in dealing with types of noise Avoidance of confusion for the customer. Better sharing of information between teams Better joint working where appropriate Avoidance of duplication of work More effective service for customers

    2. Legal Framework

    Environmental Protection

    The principal legal control over neighbourhood noise is based on the concept of 'nuisance', contained in Part III of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA). The Act empowers local authorities to deal with noise from premises such as homes, pubs, and factories, and from machinery and equipment. Other legislation used by EP team in relation to noise, are Codes of Practice under the procedure in section 71 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974,these provide guidance on minimising noise from ice-cream chimes, model aircraft, and audible intruder alarms. The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 allows officers to take action when an intruder alarm has given reasonable grounds for annoyance to neighbouring

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    properties, officers can silence alarms externally without a warrant from a magistrate and recover the costs of doing so.

    The types of noise that EP team can take action on could be classified as;

    Controllable Noise this would be noise that could be abated easily by requiring it to be turned off, down or attenuated in some way by a practical solution. Some examples of controllable noise in relation to residential premises would be;

    Loud music from inside a premises Loud TV DIY Barking dog*

    Before action can be taken, an EP Officer has to establish that the noise constitutes a statutory nuisance. This means that they have to prove that the noise is causing an unreasonable interference with someones use or comfort of their property. Establishing nuisance would also depend upon the frequency and duration of the offending noise within the character of the area.

    If the EP officer is satisfied that a statutory nuisance exists, an Abatement Notice may be served on the person responsible for the problem. Where the notice requires work, a period of time will be given to allow it to be carried out. Failure to comply with the notice after that time is a criminal offence, and the person could be prosecuted. Equipment used in the commission of a noise offence can be seized.

    There are some occasions where the EP Officer is unable to take action, particularly where the noise occurs intermittently and is not judged to be a statutory nuisance. If the officer decides that formal action cannot be taken, the complainant will be informed and will be given advice about taking action themselves if they wish to do so.

    Currently a number of complaints received by the EP team do not readily fall into the category of controllable noise. The complaints may arise due to noise from vulnerable groups such as those with alcohol, drugs or mental health problems or people with disabilities. Defra guidance (1) gives further advice on dealing with complaints. Given the legal framework in which the EP officers work, it would be inappropriate in some instances to use powers under EPA to deal with these complaints, particularly in relation to potentially vulnerable clients. In this respect they may be more appropriately dealt with by ASB Team who have support mechanisms in place to deal with these often complex issues

    Anti-Social Behaviour

    The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 defines Anti-Social Behaviour as:

    Acting in a manner that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household as the perpetrator

    ASB can be considered unacceptable behaviour by one person but can be seen as acceptable behaviour by another. The subjective and constantly evolving nature of ASB can make it difficult to identify a single definition but could range from criminal damage, harassment, drugs dealing /misuse to street drinking, graffiti and litter dropping.

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    The types of residential noise the ASB team may take action on could be described as Behavioural Noise problems such as

    Arguing, shouting Swearing, threatening or abusive behaviour Noise arising from drugs/alcohol misuse Children crying Slamming doors/banging about Rowdy behaviour

    The above types of noise could be linked to more serious neighbourhood problems and would therefore require a more multi-disciplinary approach.

    There are a number of intervention and prevention services across the borough, providing a range of activities and support in responding to and dealing effectively with ASB in neighbourhoods.

    The ASB team initially tackle incidents in a preventative way but there will be incidents of ASB that will need to be resolved in a more formal manner. Across the Partnership there are a number of available enforcement measures to deal with aggressive and persistent ASB, these include the following;

    Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) House Closure Anti-Social Behaviour Injunction

    In addition other non-statutory options are also available and these include;

    Acceptable Behaviour Contract (ABC) Youth Referrals

    The enforcement work of different agencies, when dealing with families or young people, will reflect a challenge and support ethos

    3. Working together

    Complainants with Mental Health Problems

    Some forms of mental ill-health can be associated with increased noise sensitivity or even the imagining of noises which may be blamed on neighbours or other sources. Dealing with these cases is very difficult as the evaluation of noise nuisance must be based upon an objective test and consequently any special sensitivities of the complainant due to mental illness cannot be taken into account. Social isolation too may lead people to complain unjustifiably about noise, among other things, as a way of gaining attention.

    If EP team receive a complaint of noise which they subsequently find may be due to the complainants own sensitivities, EP team will enlist the support of the ASB team who may be able to bring in support from social services, or community psychiatric nurses in an attempt to give the complainant some help and support. It should be noted however, that EP officers are fully aware that mentally ill people do suffer from genuine noise nuisances and take care to

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    avoid the possibility of stereotyping dealing with complaints appropriately and in line with Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

    Dealing with Persons with Mental Health Problems Responsible for Noise Nuisance

    It wouldnt be until a statutory nuisance has been established and EP officers have contacted the person responsible for causing the nuisance that they may suspect the perpetrator as being mentally unwell. An abatement notice may be served in accordance with usual enforcement policies, however, a decision will be made as to whether to defer the notice and special arrangements made to explain the requirements of the notice. Where appropriate, the EP team should liaise with the ASB team who may use their contacts with social services and the community psychiatric services before the notice is served, as their involvement may result in the noise problem being resolved, enable the noise-maker to more fully understand the consequences of their actions; and result in seriously ill persons accessing effective treatment. Liaison with the housing officer (if the ill person is a tenant of the council or registered social landlord) is important throughout the case. Upon initial suspicion of a person being mentally ill, both these agencies need to be notified of environmental health involvement with the person. Social services may be able to provide assistance by explaining to the person the meaning of a notice or warning letter and can clarify the nature of the mental illness so that an action plan for resolving the problem can be tailored to the needs of both the noise-maker and the noise victim. If upon contacting social services the person who is believed to be mentally ill is not known to them, a referral can be made for the person to be assessed by social services. If EP Officers become aware that there is a risk of the mentally ill person causing harm to themselves or others, the Emergency Duty Social Worker and/or and psychiatric crisis teams need(s) to be contacted immediately. In extreme cases of imminent risk of serious self-injury or injury to others the police should be contacted straight away. Vulnerable People Some incidence of statutory noise nuisance and aspects of anti-social behaviour can often be systematic of other social problems. It is important that officers in all teams are aware of this when they dealing with complaints. If officers feel that there are children or adults who could be at risk or vulne

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