Noise Nuisance

The Environmental Noise Directive (2002/49/EC) aims to put in place a European wide system for identifying sources of environmental noise, informing the public about relevant noise data and taking the necessary steps to avoid, prevent or reduce noise exposure.

Noise Nuisance

Perceived Noise Nuisance

There are no statutory 'neighbourhood' noise limits in the Republic of Ireland at present. However, in certain cases, a 'legal remedy' may be available to an individual seeking redress (See next section).

In some cases, Limerick City and County Council includes conditions regulating noise when granting planning permission for certain types of development. Such conditions could relate to the construction and/or operation of the development. Where breaches are suspected, reported or detected, enforcement action is taken by the Council under the Planning Acts.

The Environmental Protection Agency issues 'Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control' (IPPC) Licences to operators of certain large industrial sites and it is common for such licences to include conditions regulating noise. Where breaches are suspected, reported or detected, the Agency itself, as the issuing authority responds accordingly. If Limerick City and County Council receives a report of a suspected breach of an IPPC Licence, it refers the report to the Agency for investigation but the council itself has no jurisdiction to investigate.

A new 'National Protocol for Dealing with Noise Complaints for Local Authorities' was developed in 2016 and it is the policy of Limerick City and County Council to adhere to the guidance in this document in the interests of applying best practice.
 

The Concept of Nuisance and How The Council Responds

Noise is generally regarded as a nuisance if it is so loud, so repeated, of such pitch, or of such duration that it causes annoyance to people. It can be any one, or a combination of these to constitute a nuisance.

However, when deciding whether to take action in relation to a noise complaint, Limerick City and County Council considers the question of public versus private nuisance.

In the context of a noise complaint, private nuisance may apply where the noise in question is considered to be interfering with an individual’s enjoyment and use of their property, while public nuisance would apply where there is a threat to the health and/or comfort of the public/community as a whole.

Limerick City and County Council generally does not deal with a noise complaint if it deems the matter to be a private nuisance issue, particularly where only one party is being affected or has made a complaint. In this regard, Section 108 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 makes provision for any person affected by noise nuisance to make a complaint to the District Court and to seek remedy of the issue (See below).

Limerick City and County Council will, as a minimum however, provide advice to the complainant as to the steps that he/she should take, should he/she wish to proceed with such an action.


Noise in the Workplace

Limits prescribed in health and safety legislation apply only to the workplace and the relevant enforcing agency is the Health and Safety Authority (HSA). Limerick City and County Council has no jurisdiction in this regard.

Chapter 1 of Part 5 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No. 299 of 2007) provides, among other things, for the assessment and measurement of noise experienced at work, the identification of areas where noise exceeds specified levels, and for the maintenance of records of noise levels.

Enforcement of these regulations is undertaken by:

The Health and Safety Authority
The Metropolitan Building
James Joyce Street
Dublin
D01 K0Y8
Phone: (1890) 289 389
www.hsa.ie
 

Legal Remedies for Perceived Neighbourhood Noise Nuisance

Sections 107 and 108 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1992 offer potential legal remedies to local authorities and members of the public seeking to limit 'neighbourhood' noise nuisance. 

Section 107 of the Act enables a local authority to serve a Notice requiring certain measures to be taken to limit noise. However, the instigation of subsequent court proceedings by the local authority, in respect of an alleged breach of the terms of such a Notice may, for legal reasons, take some time and the collation of a large body of evidence. Generally speaking, this course of action is undertaken only where a public nuisance is being alleged.

Section 108 of the Act offers a remedy through a simpler legal procedure to an individual wishing to instigate proceedings at District Court level in respect of a private nuisance e.g. a householder who perceives noise nuisance from a neighbouring property or business etc., if he/she considers a noise to be so loud, so continuous, so repeated, of such duration or pitch, or occurring at such times that it gives reasonable cause for annoyance.

However, Section 108 does not apply to noise attributable to aircraft, local authorities or statutory undertakers (e.g. utility companies etc.).

Complaints about aircraft noise should be directed to the relevant airport authority or the Irish Aviation Authority in the first instance.
 

How do I book a Court Hearing in relation to a “Section 108” case?

You will need to complete a booking form and submit a booking fee of €25 (as of August 2017). Generally speaking, a hearing can be arranged at short notice, and the case will be listed with others due to be heard on the same day.

All queries in relations to sittings of the District Court in Limerick, Kilmallock or Newcastle West should be referred to:

Limerick District Court Office
Mulgrave Street Courthouse
Mulgrave Street, Limerick
V94 X79F
Phone: (061) 289 900
Email: limerickcourtoffice@courts.ie

The sitting District Court Judge will hear the evidence and make a determination accordingly.

As plaintiff, you must forewarn the defendant(s) of your consideration of this course of action and you will need to be present in Court as you are a witness. No-one else can give evidence on your behalf. 
 

Making a Complaint about Perceived Noise Nuisance

If you feel that you have reasonable grounds for complaint in this regard, you should take the following steps:

  • Discuss the matter with those believed to be responsible for creating the perceived noise nuisance in order to afford them the opportunity to take remedial action. Remember that in many instances, noise nuisance is not necessarily malicious, and that when something is brought to their attention, those responsible may act promptly to remedy the situation. 
  • Record all instances of the perceived noise nuisance in a written log (time, duration, type of noise etc.). You should also record all details of correspondence, conversations and related events in this log. You should declare the written log to be a true document and sign it off accordingly as you may be asked to produce it as evidence at any court hearing(s). 
  • If possible, try to obtain a sound recording as well (for similar reasons). 
  • Subject to the nature of your case, you should consult with the staff of the Environment Department in Limerick City and County Council, who will advise of what further steps can be taken. 
  • If you wish to lodge a formal complaint, you will need to provide details of your name, address, contact number, etc. as well as details relating to the source of the perceived noise nuisance. You may lodge such a complaint by email, in writing or by calling in person, to Limerick City and County Council's Planning & Environmental Services Department in Dooradoyle. Please note that the Council will not instigate any enforcement measures on foot of anonymous, ambiguous or misleading reports, which, in any event, may not be admissible evidence in any subsequent legal proceedings. 
  • If you decide to instigate legal proceedings under Section 108 of the Act, contact your local District Court Office (details above), but remember that as plaintiff, you must forewarn the defendant(s) of your consideration of this course of action, and you will need to be present in Court as you are a witness
  • In the case of a multi-occupancy building, a tenant should advise the landlord of the perceived noise nuisance and warn the landlord that, in the event of legal proceedings being instigated, the landlord will be joined with the defendant. Section 15 of the Residential Tenancies Act, 2004 states that 'A landlord of a dwelling owes to each person who could be potentially affected a duty to enforce the obligations of the tenant under the tenancy'. Complainants are also advised to consider referring the issue to the Private Residential Tenancies Board. 
  • Depending on the circumstances, staff from the Environment Department may agree to testify before the court that you made a complaint to Limerick City and County Council. However, staff will not generally comment on the perceived noise nuisance itself, rather they will confirm that the Council has received a complaint, and that the complainant was advised on how to proceed. 
  • Remember also that as plaintiff, you may be subject to cross-examination in court. 

Householders seeking further information on residential noise nuisance should refer to The Free Legal Advice Centre’s (FLAC) information pamphlet: Neighbour Disputes (see link at end of page). 

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Noise from Bird Scarers (Crop Bangers) in Rural Areas

A significant portion of farmland in County Limerick is used for growing crops and it is understandable that farmers take measures to deter bird infestation. However, it should be borne in mind that the use of scarers has the potential to cause perceived noise nuisance for the occupants of nearby dwellings. 

There is no statutory regulation of such devices in the Republic of Ireland at present. However, a Code of Practice has been published by the UK National Farmer's Union (NFU). A copy may be viewed here.

Limerick City and County Council would recommend that farmers using these devices, adhere to this Code of Practice, the main points of which are as follow:

Avoid Causing a Nuisance

Where it is practical to do so, you should seek to minimise the impact of auditory scarers on your neighbours and consider alternative means of scaring birds.

Below are some steps you can take to act responsibly:

  • When they are in use, the disturbance of scarers on nearby hospitals, homes or schools should be minimised. For example, place the scarers as far away as practicable, align them to point away from neighbours, and use baffles.
  • Avoid using auditory scarers within at least 200m (220 yards) of sensitive buildings before 7am, or before 6am elsewhere, when sunrise is earlier. Use another method in the early morning and do not use after 10pm, or when sunset is later.
  • Take account of the prevailing wind when siting scarers. Remember that noise travels much further downwind.
  • Where mechanical timers are used, ensure that they are regularly re-set to take account of continuous changes in sunrise and sunset times.
  • Where a photoelectric cell controls operation, ensure that this is kept clean and free from obstruction. Preferably, ensure that a mechanical timer backs up a photoelectric switch.
  • Use reflective or absorbent baffles (of corrugated iron or straw bales) to concentrate the sound onto your field and away from neighbours wherever nuisance could be perceived. These can be very effective in reducing noise levels in the required direction.
  • Try not to use auditory scarers on Sundays. Try another type of scarer instead.
  • Ensure that your neighbours have the name of a responsible person to contact if the control on a scarer fails. Also display the name and telephone number at the nearest point of public access, or inform Limerick City and County Council of where the scarer is located, and provide contact details of the person responsible.
  • Ensure that scarers are properly maintained and checked regularly to detect any malfunctions that could cause complaints

Positioning

  • Place scarers as far apart as possible so that their combined effect does not cause a perceived nuisance, taking account of the lie of the land, atmospheric conditions and plant cover.
  • Position scarers so that they are pointing downwind (where nuisance is not a problem), even a slight wind can affect the distance sound travels, and take particular care with devices that swivel with the wind.
  • Prolong the effectiveness of scarers by hiding them, but not where they could cause a risk of fire.

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Noise from Alarms

Local authorities do not maintain databases of key holder contact details or security codes for alarm systems.

Limerick City and County Council staff are not empowered to:

  • Enter any property to disable an activated intruder alarm
  • Isolate any electrical supply to an activated intruder alarm 
  • Release ownership, occupancy or any other contact details in respect of a property

It is the responsibility of property owners and occupiers to ensure that:

  • Alarm systems are maintained serviceable
  • Appropriate response mechanisms are in place in the event of activation (occupiers may advise local Gardaí of relevant contact details if they wish)

European Standard EN51031 requires that alarms fitted since September 2003 sound for at least 90 seconds and no more than 15 minutes. However, this standard does not apply retrospectively to alarms fitted before that date.

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Noise from Animals (including barking dogs)

The Environment Department investigates complaints received in relation to dogs barking in the context of potential licencing and animal welfare concerns. 

The Control of Dogs Act empowers local authorities to seize dogs in certain circumstances and under general animal welfare legislation, neglect of animals may result in a criminal conviction, custodial sentence and publicity in the media. 

Section 25 of the Control of Dogs Act, 1986 specifically enables any person to seek a legal remedy in the District Court in respect of perceived noise nuisance from barking dogs.

Under Section 108 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1992, as referred to previously, an individual may also instigate legal proceedings in respect of perceived noise nuisance attributable to animals.

Animal Noise Related Legislation

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Noise from Neighbours and General Noise in Urban Areas 

There are many potential sources of noise to be found in an urban environment. 

Members of the public wishing to report perceived noise nuisance from neighbours, are in the first instance, advised to make every effort to resolve the issue bilaterally with those concerned, and to read the Environmental Information Service Guide to the Noise Regulations (See section below). 

The Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) has produced an information pamphlet: Neighbour Disputes which should also be consulted in this context (see link at end of page). 

Where the property is rented, the landlord should also be contacted and advised of the perceived nuisance. If the property is owned by Limerick City and County Council, the Council's Housing Department may be able to assist in the context of the conditions of the tenancy agreement with the occupants.

Noise from traffic, sports events and construction activity is, by its nature, concentrated in urban areas. Some construction activity and road works (emergency and planned) are undertaken at night-time to reduce disruption to daytime traffic and utility service provision, particularly in town centres and other traffic-sensitive locations such as major roads. 

Furthermore, certain private undertakings such as contractors providing construction, waste, drain cleaning or tree pruning services are obliged to operate in certain areas of urban areas at certain times only so as to reduce the impact on passing traffic.

Limerick City and County Council does not automatically require noise control measures to be taken where the relevant source activity is deemed necessary unless it can be shown to be reasonably practicable to implement such measures.

Householders wishing to make a complaint about perceived noise nuisance should make every effort to keep a log of all instances of the alleged nuisance (a blank log sheet may be downloaded at the end of this web page). Householders should bear in mind however that in the event of any legal proceedings being taken by the Council, “due process” will most likely require their attendance in court as witnesses.

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Street Noise (Buskers, Musicians, Performers, Preachers etc.)

Currently, there are no bye-laws regulating busking or other street performance activity in Limerick City or County.

However, those involved are requested to bear in mind that in a shared urban environment, it is important to respect the rights of those who live and work in properties within earshot of any on-street activity.

The following points should be noted:

  • You should minimise any repetition at a single location.
  • The use of electronic equipment such as amplifiers etc. increases the likelihood of a nuisance being perceived, a complaint being made to Limerick City and County Council and enforcement action being instigated.
  • You should take account of the activities being undertaken in adjoining premises e.g. medical practices, places of worship, counselling rooms, construction, etc.
  • You should endeavour to relocate to another location (at least 50m away) at least once every two hours.
  • The distribution of handbills/flyers etc. in Limerick City is prohibited in most circumstances.

In the event of a complaint being received about perceived nuisance, It is likely that staff from Limerick City and County Council will be deployed to investigate and make a determination on whether a public nuisance may exist.

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Determining the Impact of a Nuisance Noise

Initial Asessment.

In assessing the merits of any particular noise nuisance complaint, factors such as occupancy history, planning permission, reasons for noise generation, any existing grievances and precedence will need to be considered. For example, if noise has been generated at a particular address over a long period of time, then the person responsible for the noise generation may be able to cite this as a good defence in the event of a complaint from a newly arrived neighbour.

As part of the investigation process Limerick City and County Council staff may, in certain circumstances, deploy sound measurement equipment, for example, if it is felt neccessary to assess the potential nuisance value of commercial or industrial noise in public areas e.g. by applying standards such as BS 4142. 

Reference Standard

British Standard BS 4142:2014 Methods for Rating and Assessing Industrial and Commercial Sound is a common reference standard used when investigating complaints about noise. However, the standard is used to rate a noise in order to determine if complaints are likely, and not to determine if a particular noise per-se constitutes a nuisance.

The standard is not intended to be applied to the rating and assessment of sound from:

  • Recreational activities, including all forms of motor sports
  • Music and other entertainment
  • Shooting grounds
  • Construction and demolition
  • Domestic animals
  • People
  • Public address systems for speech
  • Other sources falling within the sources of other standards or guidance

Nor is the standard intended to be applied to the derivation of indoor sound levels arising from sound levels outside, or the assessment of indoor sound levels.

Perceived Noise Nuisance Legislation and Guidelines

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Guidance on Noise Regulations and Sample Complaint Form

For the Environmental Information Service Guide to the Noise Regulations click here.
Please Note: This document includes an example of a specimen form for making a noise nuisance complaint at a District Court. This form is a sample only and might not automatically be accepted for use in actual District Court procedures. Please consult your local District Court office for further clarification.

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Vibration

While sound itself is a manifestation of vibration, issues relating to perceived vibration nuisance or possible vibration damage to property, are outside the remit of the Council.

If you have such concerns, you should contact the party responsible for the vibration and seek to resolve the matter bilaterally. You also have the option of seeking a legal remedy through the civil courts.

As a general rule, Limerick City & County Council will not involve itself in such cases.

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This service is provided by

Environment Strategy

Phone +353 61 556000