Make Some Noise: Dealing with environmental health officers

By Jeremy Veitch

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Environmental health officer

'Too often draconian measures were implemented by EHOs with no, or very limited, communication with the premises licence holder'
'Too often draconian measures were implemented by EHOs with no, or very limited, communication with the premises licence holder'
Jeremy Veitch, licensing consultant and former licensing manager for a large pub company, shares his views on dealing with local environmental health officers

The majority of my time in respect of licensing issues was spent in dealing with noise nuisance and most often we would be contacted by the relevant local authority environmental health officer (EHO) or the licensing officer.

On many occasions we would hold a meeting to discuss the problems and the matter would be resolved amicably. The complaint from local residents could be perfectly valid and management controls at the premises on noise control had unfortunately been permitted to slip.

Sadly however, too often draconian measures were implemented by EHOs with no, or very limited, communication with the premises licence holder. In many cases there might be one complainant only, living some distance from the premises, which could have been operating infrequent music events without issue since well before the 2003 Licensing Act.

The EHO is often totally disinterested in the importance of music events for the business and discounts the fact that the vast majority of local residents are in accord with what their local pub is trying to do on their behalf.

'Sledgehammer to crack a nut'

I have seen noise abatement notices issued for a “one off” annual outside music event for charity, of which all local residents had been pre-warned in writing. To appeal against such a notice is extremely costly and unlikely to be successful, as one has to accept that noise nuisance on that occasion has been established by the EHO. To risk any further breach carries a fine of up to £20,000. EHOs consider these orders a very effective, if one-sided tool, in the immediate addressing of noise issues. I would class it as a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

I have actually been warned by EHOs that noise levels from certain pubs would not be acceptable when new housing or flats are built adjoining the premises and asked what we were going to do to address this. Surely the onus for adequate noise protection must be placed squarely on the developers and recorded as an obligation prior to consent.

Closure of premises

Of course we must protect residents from irresponsible activities and unacceptable noise nuisance at pubs. And I must stress that many local authorities have realised that noise problems can often take time to resolve and have worked tirelessly to help implement action plans and to monitor progress over a sustained period.

But too many complaints on alleged noise nuisance from one or two disgruntled residents have sadly led to the cessation of live music and subsequently the closure of premises.

Related topics: Legislation

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