DETR lends an ear to noise nuisance

Nuisance is a high profile issue for the general public, in all its manifestations - from noisy neighbours to malodorous processes and infestations by vermin and pests - where local authorities, and in particular environmental health officers, take the front line role in prevention and regulation. In our annual review of this sensitive subject LAWE looks at recent trends and reports on services and products which are designed to detect and combat nuisance.

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), which plays a leading role through its EHO members in dealing with the public over a wide range of problems which constitute "nuisance", produced figures recently showing that noise complaints, across all complaint sectors, are continuing to rise.

Nuisances confirmed increased from 1996-97 to 1997-98 for all sectors, with the number of notices served also increasing over all three categories, industrial and commercial, domestic and construction/ demolition. In the domestic area complaints received in 1997-98 totalled 68,133. Prosecutions for noise, however, have decreased in all categories. Some 76% of local authorities operate an out-of-hours noise complaint service. This has increased over a five year period by 17%.

Criticising the "hype" in the press over complaints over domestic noise, Mr Price says: "For the future, the emphasis needs to move from cure to prevention, while maintaining a greater scepticism of statistics." On the pest control front the CIEH reports that the number of authorities providing a comprehensive disinfestation service continuing to fall, as expected.

While the number of premises treated for cockroach infestation has risen by 84%, from 6,545 in 1993-94 to 12,052 in 1997-98, perhaps surprisingly, the Institute states: "Claims that rat populations are increasing are not borne out by the trend in the number of premises treated."

Noise attitudes survey
The Government has been lending an ear to public concern over noise, having commissioned two surveys, both on contract to the Building Research Establishment - a Noise Attitudes Survey and a Noise Incidence Survey. Last month (December 1999) Stanger Science & Environment, an environmental consultancy within Carillion plc, was awarded the contract to be the technical research support manager to the Noise and Statutory Nuisance team at the DETR.

Industry is also increasingly aware of its responsibility in terms of preventing noise pollution: the construction industry research body, CIRIA, last year published a new site booklet, How much noise do you make ? (PR70) which provides information on the assessment and control of noise arising from construction work.

In November 1999 the Environmental and Safety Engineering Group of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers mounted a seminar on the theme of Noise and Vibration Legislation: Enforcement, Compliance and Benefits.



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