UK Music recently reported that approximately 35% of music venues across the UK have closed in the last decade. One of the reasons is said to be frequent noise complaints by local residents. With the current demand for housing in the UK, apartments are often built close to existing, noise emitting businesses including music venues and nightclubs. Smaller venues, in particular, may struggle with the viability of significant noise attenuation measures.

What is the law?

Noise and/or vibration from premises can be a statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

A local authority has a statutory duty to inspect its area to detect statutory nuisances and to take reasonably practicable steps to investigate complaints. Where the local authority is satisfied that a statutory nuisance exists, or is likely to recur, it should serve an abatement notice. Failure to comply with the terms of an abatement notice is a criminal offence.

What can I do?

An abatement notice may set out specific steps required to abate the alleged nuisance, but more commonly it will simply say that the recipient must abate the nuisance, leaving him/her to determine what to do. Where the noise is from live music, options might include:

  • restricting operating hours;
  • retrofitting sound insulation;
  • reducing sound levels (particularly at lower bass frequencies).

The challenge, of course, is how you achieve this within financial and other practical constraints, without adversely affecting the ambience of the venue.

Can I appeal?

You can appeal against an abatement notice but you must act quickly: the period for issuing the appeal is very short. Grounds of appeal include:

  • the abatement notice is not justified (usually, on the basis that there is no statutory nuisance);
  • the requirements of the notice are unreasonable;
  • the business has used best practicable means (“BPM”) to prevent the nuisance. BPM is assessed on a case by case basis and steps that are considered practicable for one venue may not be for another. It is therefore crucial to evidence what has been achieved by any adopted noise control measures, as well as justifying any decision to reject other measures.

You cannot build a case of BPM overnight. As well as legal support, you will need the input of an expert acoustic consultant and perhaps a structural engineer where building constraints are an issue, all of which takes time.

For more information

Lisa Gilligan can assist with licencing and related issues. Contact Lisa on 0345 272 5723

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The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.