Environmental noise means unwanted or harmful outdoor sound created by human activities, including noise emitted by means of transport, road traffic rail traffic, air traffic, and from sites of industrial activity. It is among the most frequent sources of complaint regarding environmental issues in Ireland and throughout Europe, especially in densely populated urban areas and residential areas.
Noise is a highly subjective issue and affects people in different ways. However, scientific research into understanding the impacts of noise is increasingly showing the detrimental health impacts that exposure to noise pollution can have. According to the European Environment Agency, environmental noise causes at least 10,000 cases of premature death in Europe each year, with almost 20 million adults suffering annoyance and a further 8 million suffering sleep disturbance.
The World Health Organisation has identified noise as the second most significant environmental cause of ill health, the first being air pollution. The 7th EAP (EU, 2013) includes an objective to significantly decrease noise pollution by 2020, moving closer to WHO recommended levels. Noise nuisances can come from a variety of sources.
Definition of a noise nuisance in legislation
A noise so loud, so continuous, so repeated, of such pitch or duration or occurring at such times that it gives a person reasonable cause for annoyance.
Noise nuisance caused by neighbours makes up the vast majority of noise complaints received by local authorities in Ireland. The source of a neighbourhood noise complaint most often dictates the way it should be addressed.
Taking a case under the Section 108 of the EPA Act
Under Section 108 of the EPA Act (the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Act 1992 (Noise) Regulations 1994), any individual person, or a local authority, may appeal to the District Court for an Order to deal with a noise nuisance.
Firstly a complainant must give notice to the person making the noise of the intention to make a formal complaint to the District Court and then he/she must serve a notice on the alleged offender that a complaint is being made at least 7 days in advance of the complaint being made to the Court. The District Court will hear both sides of a complaint and where it finds in favour of the complainant it can order the person or body making the noise to reduce it to a specific level, to limit it e.g. to specified times, or to stop it altogether.