Top tips: managing noise complaints in an era of outdoor trading

By Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

Volume control: here are a few tips on managing noise related complaints that could rain on summer plans: (Image: Jordi Mora Igual/Getty Images)
Volume control: here are a few tips on managing noise related complaints that could rain on summer plans: (Image: Jordi Mora Igual/Getty Images)

Related tags Poppleston allen Legal Noise Noise abatement notice Licensing Health and safety Coronavirus Pub garden

For obvious reasons, never in the history of the hospitality sector has the use of outside areas been more important.

Since Monday 12 April, operators across the land have shown real innovation in turning their outside areas into useable spaces. 

From simple additions such as adding extra seats and providing blankets to keep the chills at bay, right through to building external structures with big screen TV’s and purpose-built bars. There seems to be no end to the creative entrepreneurship taking place in the trade. 

Even though 17 May heralded restricted indoor reopening, and with all restrictions slated to end on 21 June, the recent investments in outside areas will no doubt see them used – and pay dividends –  for years to come. 

And with a packed summer of sport ahead, including the postponed Euro 2020, now is an apt time for operators to put some thought into managing the prospect of receiving complaints over noise. 

So here are a few tips on how to manage noise related complaints that could put a dampener on your summer plans: 

  • If you have residential or business neighbours, it is important to maintain good working relationships. Keep them aware of any events that might be taking place at your premises.
  • If complaints have already been received, in the first instance contact your local resident complainant(s) and ensure you show a willingness to work with them to resolve things on an informal basis, without local authority involvement if possible.
  • If the complaint has already been escalated to the relevant licensing and environmental health officers, ensure you liaise with them to get the full details of the complaints. Investigate the complaints to ensure they relate to your premises and take a proactive approach in dealing with the complaint and finding a solution to prevent further problems.
  • Ideally all events that are taking place, particularly those utilising outside areas, should be risk assessed in advance. If you do not have a risk assessment, put one in place immediately. This may include considering the type of event, the location, the period of the event, the terminal hours of amplified music and where speakers will be positioned.
  • Consider measures that you will have in place such as staff regularly monitoring noise levels at the boundaries of premises to avoid nuisance and effective dispersal of customers at the end of the event. 
  • Consider the use of an acoustic consultant to review the potential noise breakout against the intended operation of the premises. Installing a new sound system or having amplified music in areas where you would not usually do so without proper consideration of the potential noise impact could result in complaints and enforcement action. A consultant should be able to advise on additional measures to put in place to mitigate noise and potential nuisance to your neighbours and avoid the threat of complaints and enforcement action.

It is important to note noise complaints can be a significant risk to your business, and you could be met with enforcement action such as a Noise Abatement Notice (which if breached can result in prosecution through the Magistrates’ Court with the possibility of an unlimited fine), or your premises licence being reviewed, which can result in cutting back of your permitted hours, onerous conditions being added or, in the most serious cases, revocation. 

So always ensure you get on the front foot where you are made aware of complaints from local residents.

For any legal enquiries please visit Poppleston Allen's website​.

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