Since 2001, the following amendments have been made to local authority powers to tackle noise.
The Noise Act 1996 has been amended by the Anti- Social Behaviour Act 2003 so that the Noise Act powers are easier for local authorities to use.
The Noise Act 1996 has been amended by the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, which extended the Noise Act to licensed as well as domestic premises. Local authorities have a discretionary power to prosecute or issue a fixed penalty notice for night noise above the ‘permitted level’ emitted from a dwelling or licensed premises between 11 pm and 7 am.
Sections 69-81 of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 introduced new powers for local authorities to deal with audible intruder alarms in their area. A local authority may designate its area (or parts of it) as an alarm notification area. The occupier or owner in respect of any premises that are fitted with an audible intruder alarm in the designated area must nominate a key holder for those premises and notify the local authority of the contact details of that key holder.
The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 also introduced powers for local authorities to enter premises in order to silence audible intruder alarms where key holders cannot be reached, or where the alarm is not in an alarm notification area. These powers of entry apply to audible intruder alarms sounding for 20 minutes continuously or one hour intermittently, and likely to cause annoyance to those in the vicinity.
Section 80 (2A) of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 introduced a discretionary power for local authorities to take such other steps as it thinks appropriate to persuade the appropriate person to abate a statutory nuisance from noise within a seven-day period without serving an abatement notice. An abatement notice must still be served after the seven-day period if the local authority thinks that a statutory nuisance still exists, or is likely to occur or recur, and the abatement notice can be served at any point within the seven days.
Complaints about noise from church bells would be subject to part III of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (as amended), but we would expect common sense to be applied to the handling of complaints not least because church bells are part of our culture and heritage.