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Council required to serve notice for noise nuisance

Local Government
Ombudsmen Act 1975
Related legislation:
Health Act 1956,
Town and Country Planning Act 1977
Legislation display text:
Ombudsmen Act 1975, Town and Country Planning Act 1977, Health Act 1956
Local Authority
Sir John Robertson
Case number(s):
Issue date:

Failure to reduce noise nuisance

The complainant, a resident whose property was adjacent to the former boundary between a county council’s territory and a borough council’s territory, complained that the Council failed to reduce a noise nuisance. The noise that concerned the resident came from premises of a large transport company which formed one of the overnight delivery points for long haul road transport rigs.

The background to the issue lay in a lack of consultation on planning matters between the former County Council and Borough Council, as the latter had allowed residential development up to the edge of the borough boundary and the County Council had allowed industrial development up to the same boundary on the other side. The complainant claimed that the activity allowed by the County Council directly affected his ability to sleep soundly. The company’s activities took the form of unloading and loading of trucks, movement of forklifts and opening and shutting of container doors and building doors in a warehouse. While the Council initially said that the land use by the transport company was a permitted use, legislation under the Health Act 1956 and the Town and Country Planning Act 1977 required Councils to reduce nuisances.

The Ombudsman noted that it was clear that the noise at some times of the night was excessive and intrusive, and that in the early hours of the morning it could from time to time be double the permitted noise level in terms of the district scheme, being in excess of 75 decibels and exceeding the background noise level by 30 decibels, which impacted on the complainant’s ability to sleep. The Council was asked what it believed it should do given the findings and it sought legal advice on the matter. During the course of this process further enquiries were made concerning whether the use was a permitted use. It was found that the use of the property had the status of an existing non-conforming use. The land was zoned industrial and the use of the land did not appear to be either a predominant or conditional use in terms of the Council’s district scheme. The night time activity on the site appeared to come into this category. Further it was found that the original planning consent given to the company in 1966 contained the condition that no normal work was to be carried on after 8.00 pm and it was evident that the transport company’s activities were outside the bounds of the planning consent. The Council served notice on the company under section 77(7) of the Town and Country Planning Act to cease all outside activity on the site between 8.00 pm and 6.00 am.

With the Council’s decision to serve notice on the company, the matter became subject to the judicial process and under section 17(1)(a) of the Ombudsmen Act 1975 the Ombudsman decided to discontinue his enquiries on that basis.

This case note is published under the authority of the Ombudsmen Rules 1989. It sets out an Ombudsman’s view on the facts of a particular case. It should not be taken as establishing any legal precedent that would bind an Ombudsman in future.

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