Ensure you don't face the music over noise

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Related tags: Noise abatement notice, Local authority, Complaint, Pleading

A couple of years ago I commented that the question ofdisturbance to neighbours was likely to become a key issue when local authorities take over...

A couple of years ago I commented that the question ofdisturbance to neighbours was likely to become a key issue when local authorities take over licensing. Already an issue with entertainment pubs that have public entertainment licences, noise nuisance will be a factor for all venues under the new regime. There is no doubt that it causes the most friction between pubs and their local residents ­ something which the Government clearly recognises. A couple of recent examples from readers show that in some areas, the battle lines are already being drawn. There is no doubt that residents' groups are going to lodge objections on noise grounds in the hope that the local council will be more sympathetic to them in the early stages of the new law. One licensee runs a pub that is a well-known local venue for music, and he is fearful that as soon as a residential redevelopment is completed next door, the complaints will start coming in. His point is that he was there first, and the incomers would know of the nature of the pub before they bought. Does he not have some form of prior rights? Unfortunately, no. The law on environmental pollution does not work that way. If the music is obtrusive and disturbing, his neighbours will have a right to complain and the local authority will be bound to investigate. The fact that he was there first is of little help to him. What is likely to happen? The residents complain to the local authority which serves a noise abatement notice under the Environmental Protection Act, giving the licensee 21 daysto abate the nuisance and toexecute certain specified worksrelated to double-glazing, soundproofing and the like. The notice has a schedule which sets out details of the works to be done and requires the provision of music to cease at 11pm each evening. There are two alternative reactions to the notice: the owner can do nothing, or he can take proper advice and appeal the notice. What happens to the owner who does nothing? After the time limit expires, the residents continue to suffer the same annoyance and, again, they complain to the council. The requirements of the notice have now taken effect and have the forceof law, rather like a restrictive covenant imposed forever on a property, but with the teeth of criminal penalties upon breach. The provisions of the notice may no longer be challenged in a court of law and, every time there is a complaint of noise that is contrary to the terms of the notice (for example music occurring after 11pm), proceedings can be issued which can carry a fine of up to £20,000. Under the new law, of course, the actual licence is at risk. It will do no good for the owner of the premises to plead to the court that he did everything possible to lessen the effects of the noise. In one case, the defendant was holding a party three years after a noise nuisance notice. When a passing police officer complained of noise, the music was turned down but the defendant was nevertheless still prosecuted and convicted. As far as our reader is concerned, he needs to start now to lobby the local authority, in order to compel the developer to take account of the current situation and ensure thatnearby homes are adequately soundproofed. Or he needed to act much earlier and objectto the development in thefirst place. Some local authorities are very pro-active in these circumstances and will try to resolve the situation. But for the entertainment pub operator, doing nothing is not an option.

Related topics: Entertainment

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