Updated: Sep 20, 2020
Bristol City Council dealt with more than 650 complaints of excessive noise between March and the end of July, according to a post on the Facebook page of its Neighbourhood Enforcement Team.
Many of these related to loud music, the post says.
Because the pandemic has delayed court hearings—“at a time when more people are being seriously affected by noise”—officers have turned to powers that allow them to confiscate sound equipment.
“Despite having issued 121 formal warnings, and served 12 noise abatement notices to resolve noise cases during this period, NET had evidence that some people have failed to keep the noise down,” it adds.
“In these extreme cases, faced with long delays for a court hearing, enforcement officers have been requesting warrants to search properties and remove the equipment making the noise.”
The post, dated 28 July, says officers have carried out “four separate seizures in Bristol since lockdown alone—the most recent took place yesterday. We are seeking warrants for two more.”
It adds that to help investigations, complainants are offered the Noise App, which they can download onto a smartphone or other device and use to record evidence to support their complaint, “reducing the need for council officers to do home visits during the pandemic.”
According to the Facebook post, people can report a noise complaint by calling 0117 922 2500*. Complaints can also be entered online at https://www.bristol.gov.uk/pests-pollution-noise-food/noise. (*This number doesn’t appear on the complaints page.)
The post doesn’t say how the figure of more than 650 complaints compares with the same period a year earlier. It also doesn’t break down the total by geography or any other category, so it’s unclear whether the numbers include the recent dramatic rise in noise disturbance in areas of North Bristol that have large student populations.
In terms of outcomes, the figure of 121 formal warnings represents less than 20% of the total, and the 12 noise abatement notices served is less than 2%.
Relatively few cases of student noise are likely to meet the NET’s criteria for investigation. Its noise complaints page, at the link above, says it can’t investigate noise in the street, such as shouting, so “passing noise”, possibly the largest category of disturbance, is not regarded as a council matter.
In a prominent grey box, the council also states:
"We can only investigate a noise complaint if:
the noise happens regularly
you've filled in a 14 day noise diary
"We can't investigate:
one off complaints
noise that's happening now, unless it's from a burglar alarm or car alarm"
In past email correspondence, the NET has indicated that student parties are regarded as “one-off events” unless they occur in a pattern of repeated disturbance from the same address.
The Facebook post is accompanied by a photograph of confiscated loudspeakers and other sound equipment.
This picture originally appeared with a post in March, when the team said it had seized “a television, games console, 9x speakers & sound systems” from a property in Lockleaze, BS7.
The March post said: “Following reports made by local residents an abatement notice was served. Breaches of the notice were witnessed by officers & following an offer to voluntary surrender equipment a warrant to force entry & seize items was obtained.”
One enforcement action is known to have involved students. In a post on 14 February, the team said it had carried out a “voluntary seizure” at an address in Cotham, and displayed a photo of a loudspeaker.
The Noise App
“Following reports made by local residents, including one using the Noise App, an abatement notice was served,” it said. “Breaches of the abatement notice were evidenced & on informing the students of the breach the students voluntarily surrendered the large ‘party speaker’.”
No other details were provided.
Anyone can download the Noise App, produced by RHE Global, but it’s principally designed to work by sending the data you gather to your local authority’s account for follow-up and action. This is free of charge.
For it to work in this way, users will usually have first submitted a complaint to their council and been assigned a case officer, who will explain how to connect to the authority's Noise App account.
He or she will probably also provide guidance on how the app should be used in order to provide evidence which, if necessary, can be presented to a court.
The Noise App provides an option to create a personal account for private data gathering, for a small fee. But you would have to persuade the council to take on the case, or mount your own legal action, for this to produce an outcome.