Rise in complaints in 2020 put huge strain on environmental health resources
Thursday, 24 March 2022, Steve Smethurst
CIEH Survey shows that lockdown resulted in a surge in noise complaints and subsequent prosecutions
The annual CIEH Noise Survey has revealed that the first ‘lockdown year’  in England saw noise complaints rise by 54%. The results suggest that the increase in people staying at home at the height of the pandemic contributed significantly to the 356,367 noise complaints recorded by 144 local authorities (45% of the total). This equates to an average of 149 complaints for every 10,000 people.
Not surprisingly, this placed a significant burden on environmental health resources as 11,211 formal actions were taken by responding authorities and the average number of complaints per full-time equivalent (FTE) professional more than doubled from 299 to 633. It also resulted in 88 noise-related prosecutions.
The CIEH survey also showed that there are 563 full-time equivalents employed to investigate and resolve noise complaints at the 144 authorities, making an average of roughly four FTEs at each authority.
“The data collected from 2020 really helps to demonstrate how much pressure Environmental Health teams were under in those early days of the pandemic.”
Tamara Sandoul, Policy and Campaigns Manager at CIEH, said: “The data collected from 2020 really helps to demonstrate how much pressure Environmental Health teams were under in those early days of the pandemic. As well as taking on new duties, related to Covid-19, noise complaints from the public were substantially higher, due to the unusual circumstances.”
BSi is reviewing guidance on sound insulation and noise reduction for buildings
In other noise-related news, BSi intends to run an online consultation to seek feedback on its guidance on sound insulation and noise reduction for buildings (BS 8233:2014). The standard, now referenced in the National Planning Practice Guidance, is routinely referred to when new noise sensitive uses, such as housing, are proposed near existing sources of noise such as roads, railways and airports.
Daniel Baker, Director of Broodbakker Acoustic Consultants, is the CIEH representative on the committee that sets British Standards on noise and the built environment. He told EHN that the committee had agreed that it would be revised.
He said: “There is a lot of useful information within the standard, but only a small part, relating to noise guidelines, that is typically utilised and it is often misused in the context of noise source, reaction and demonstrating compliance with national noise policy requirements.”
CIEH member, Dani Fiumicelli, Technical Director of Vanguardia, said that the standard should be read as a whole and applied as part of achieving good acoustic design. He said: “This means not considering the noise level guidelines it contains in isolation, but also understanding the limitations to their application, and the interaction with other health and quality of life related issues such as ventilation and control of overheating.”