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Thursday, 20 December, 2001, 15:48 GMT
Noisy neighbours face crackdown
A stereo sound system
Loud music is one of the key complaints
Noisy neighbours who make their fellow residents' lives a misery are to be targeted in new laws being considered by ministers.

Plans are being unveiled to make it easier for local councils to take action against people making a din late at night.

Examples given of annoying noises
Loud music
Door banging
Late-night DIY
Dogs barking
Loud rows
Environment Minister Michael Meacher is also launching a consultation drive to hear the public's views on how to reduce noise from transport and industry.

The new efforts to tackle this problem come as the latest figures on noise complaints are published by the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health.

Complaints over noise have more than doubled in the last decade - even allowing for the growth in population.

Environment Minister Michael Meacher
Meacher: Noise is causing misery to thousands
This 2000/01 figures show there were more than 118,000 complaints about noisy neighbours.

Mr Meacher told BBC News the problem of noise pollution, whether it be background noise from roads and aircraft or from noisy neighbours, was widespread.

The numbers of complaints were huge and showed no signs of going down.

Making lives hell

"It's something that ruins the lives of many people."

Rising noise complaints were caused by a number of factors, suggested the minister, pointing at traffic, late night parties and people just "selfishly banging doors".

Mr Meacher said councils need to be able to act quickly and without red tape to tackle the problem.

A plane flies into Heathrow low over homes
Heathrow flight noise has provoked residents' anger
Under current laws, local councils could only take action against people making a noise at night through powers in the 1996 Noise Act.

"The trouble with that is local authorities have to adopt the whole act, which requires them to set up a 24-hour service," said Mr Meacher.

"That is very expensive. Only 14 out of 550 authorities are willing to do that so the night noise offence is not used."

Under the new plans, local councils would be able to use the powers - which include fines and confiscating hi-fi equipment - without going to the expense of adopting the whole act.

It is understood there could also be a new publicity drive targeted at noise-makers - something that could be rolled out into a national advertising campaign, although no decision has yet been taken to do that.

Background noise

New research into noise awareness is also expected to be on the government's agenda.

Underlining the need for public consultation on reducing background noise from roads and flight paths, Mr Meacher said such pollution caused misery for "tens of thousands" of people.

That problem has most recently hit the headlines when the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favour of south-west London residents calling for an end to night flights to and from Heathrow Airport.

The government has refused to ban night flights despite that decision, and now looks set to appeal against the ruling.

The Department for Environment said the noise consultation plans were drawn up well before that case went to court.

The BBC's Navdip Dhariwal
"Noise... can drive some people to despair"
UK Environment Minister Michael Meacher MP
"It'll enable local authorities to target action much more easily"
Richard Marbrow
was driven out of his home by noisy neighbours
See also:

23 Oct 01 | UK Politics
No night flights ban says minister
13 Mar 00 | UK
Searching for tranquility
25 Dec 99 | Northern Ireland
New laws target noisy neighbours
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