CIEH releases latest noise complaints statistics for England

26 February 2021, Heidi Douglas-Osborn

CIEH has published the results of its flagship noise survey, which provides the only source of information on the vital contribution made by Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs) working to resolve noise complaints in England.

Data from the CIEH survey is being used by Public Health England for the Public Health Outcomes Framework, which establishes an important link between noise and health outcomes.

Key figures for England (representing 117 local authorities in England, 36%):

  • A total of 131,645 noise complaints were recorded by these local authorities, 67 complaints for every 10,000 people
  • 5,176 formal actions were taken by local authorities
  • There were 96 noise-related prosecutions
  • Overall, local authorities allocated 0.2 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) professionals to deal with noise complaints per 10,000 population
  • The average officer in England investigated 299 noise complaints per year, with the West Midlands having the lowest average of 186 complaints and Greater London having the highest, triple the lowest, of 671 complaints per officer

Greater London had the highest number of complaints, 189 for every 10,000 people, more than double the national average.[i] Local authorities in Yorkshire served the highest number of notices with 48 for every 10,000 people.[ii] South West England had the lowest number of noise complaints, 27 for 10,000 people less than half the national average.[iii]

Residential noise accounted for the largest proportion of noise complaints, with similar data to the 2018/19 figures. This was the case across all regions in England.

Other sources of noise complaints recorded by local authorities include noise in the street, vehicles, machinery and equipment, dogs, agriculture, alarms, military, traffic and railways.

Compared with the last time CIEH collected noise data in 2018/19, the 2019/20 data shows a decrease of 11.7% with a comparison of the 83 local authorities that participated in both surveys. In comparison to the survey’s in 2015/16, there is an estimated drop of 13% in the number of noise complaints according to data from 51 local authorities.

Noise is the single largest issue of complaints made to local authorities in the UK, and according to the World Health Organisation, noise is a disease burden that is second in magnitude only to that from air pollution.  

This survey ran from 6 April 2019 - 5 April 2020, which meant that just under a month of the data collected was during the first Coronavirus lockdown. We expect to see a rise in noise complaints especially domestic complaints in our next survey with the public having been asked to work from home. For the safety of officers’ home visits ceased and were replaced by telephone advice, which we expect will have an effect on formal actions.

Julie Barratt, CIEH President, said:

“This survey continues to show that noise is a major issue dealt with by local authorities across England.

Noise has a profound impact on people’s health and interferes with wellbeing and quality of life. Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs) are at the forefront of receiving and resolving noise complaints and deserve recognition and awareness of the important contributions they made to supporting and protecting the nation’s public health.

Whilst this survey only covered the very beginning of the first lockdown, we have heard that many areas experienced increased complaints in 2020. We will continue to collect this data and will evaluate the effect COVID-19 has had on noise complaints, and with it, on public health.”

Gloria Elliott, Noise Abatement Society’s Chief Executive, said:

“The Noise Abatement Society are pleased to, once again, support the CIEH national Noise Survey. While it’s encouraging to see a reduction in noise complaints in participating local authorities, it’s notable that the vast majority of complaints continue to be from neighbour noise. These results provide a clear reminder about how the noise we make affects the health, wellbeing and quality of life of others and the need for more effective solutions. As well as personal responsibility, it is crucial that government require and enforce more rigorous standards of good acoustic design and post-occupancy testing for all residential development. 'Building back better' by definition must also include homes with better internal and external acoustic quality for all.”

[i] Figures represent 36.3% of local authorities in Greater London

[ii] Figure represents 38% of local authorities in Yorkshire

[iii] Figure represents 29.7% of local authorities in South West

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