Noise complaints

Harlow Council's aim is to help maintain a safe, healthy environment for all those living or working in Harlow. Noise is often defined as ‘unwanted sound’. What constitutes ‘Noise’ is a very personal matter; one person’s favourite music might well be another person’s unwanted sound. We usually become involved in noise matters when a complaint is received. We then have a duty to investigate and have to decide if any action is possible. We try to resolve noise complaints informally if possible, but have legal powers to take formal action if necessary in many cases.

There are many different types of noise that affect us but the Council is not able to deal with them all. Unfortunately we cannot deal with noise outside of Harlow or noise such as babies crying, people arguing, children playing, slamming doors, occasional dog barking, footsteps on stairs and other ‘normal’ domestic activities and day-to-day living sounds. More information on domestic noise

Road traffic noise, aircraft noise and train noise are exempt from Harlow Council control:

Report noise complaints

You can report to us or make a complaint about noise, such as excessively loud music played for prolonged periods, unreasonable noise from commercial or industrial premises and burglar alarms sounding for long periods.

Report noise online

If you are seriously disturbed outside of normal office hours you should use the out of hours noise service.

Noise types and enforcement

In cases where an officer is unable to witness a noise nuisance, or a person does not wish to involve the Council, you may be advised to consider your own private action. More information on private action

Out of hours noise service

The Council operates an every other week out of normal office hours noise service, to deal with on-going cases and some emergencies, including intruder alarms and car alarms that have been sounding for a long time and are disturbing a lot of people.

The procedure for dealing with noise of this type will initially involve a visit to assess the problem. If further action is taken this will be done in conjunction with Essex Police Service. In some situations a Magistrate and/or external contractor may get involved. As such the procedure may take some time to stop the nuisance, and the costs and difficulties involved are balanced against the benefits.

Due to the high numbers of noise complaints that are received the out-of-hours service cannot visit non-emergency first time complaints. All such complaints are dealt with under the Councils noise nuisance procedures. However, on-going complaints investigations may involve making call out arrangements available. In such cases, complainants are advised by the case officer how to use the service.

If you are seriously disturbed outside of normal office hours by an alarm you should telephone the Councils’ Control Service on 01279 446666.