The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Miss X complains the Council failed to take action to stop noise nuisance from a pub. Miss X made intermittent reports mainly during the warmer months. The Council visited to observe the noise but then used its professional judgement to decide it was not a statutory nuisance.
- Miss X complains the Council has failed to take action to stop noise nuisance from a nearby pub.
- Miss X says the noise nuisance impacts on her health and wellbeing.
- Miss X has been complaining about noise nuisance for several years. This investigation concerns noise reports from January 2017 onwards and the Council’s response to them.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- As part of the investigation, I have:
- considered the complaint and the documents provided by the complainant;
- made enquiries of the Council and considered the comments and documents the Council provided;
- discussed the issues with the complainant;
- sent my draft decision to both the Council and the complainant and taken account of their comments before making my final decision.
What I found
- Miss X lives in a property on an estate built in the 1980’s. As part of the estate a pub and shopping area was built. This is located to the rear of Miss X’s property and is separated by a main road.
- Miss X says the position of her house, and that of her neighbour, Miss Z, mean they are most affected by the noise from the pub. Both Miss X and Miss Z have made regular complaints about noise nuisance from the pub.
- In March 2017 Miss X sent in a log sheet to the Council. This detailed one incident of noise on 26 March. Miss X said she could hear loud music between 12 30 pm and 7 pm.
- Miss X made a further report of noise on 2 April. An officer working out of normal office hours contacted Miss X but she reported the noise had stopped.
- Miss X complained again on 7 April. On this occasion officers visited and reported some noise could be heard but not at a level to constitute a statutory nuisance.
- In May officers visited Miss X but she was not home. Two days later officers visited the pub and noted noise from music. Officers reminded the manager to keep doors closed as required by the licence. The Council wrote to the pub on 30 and 31 May explaining noise had been witnessed and reminding it of the requirements of the licence and that action would be taken if a statutory nuisance was witnessed.
- The Council visited Miss X again on 17 June but the music had stopped by the time officers arrived. Officers went into Miss X’s garden and heard children and muffled music but did not witness a statutory nuisance. They also visited Miss Z’s property before going to the pub to witness the noise from the car park. They heard nothing you wouldn’t expect in a pub garden.
- In July, officers prioritised the location so any noise reports could be responded to more quickly. Miss Z made a complaint on 12 July about noise from a quiz night. The following week officers visited but did not observe any excessive noise or other nuisance.
- In August, Miss X and Miss Z both reported noise from children shouting and playing football. Officers called back but the noise had stopped. Miss X made a further complaint in October about music keeping her awake. However her log sheet also states she does not know what time the music stopped as she fell asleep.
- Miss X complained to the Ombudsman in September 2017. We referred the complaint to the Council as it did not appear the matter had been considered through the Council’s internal complaints procedure. The Ombudsman does not normally consider complaints until they have exhausted the Council’s own complaints procedure.
- In November 2017, officers visited other properties in the same street and Miss X and Miss Z, as well as properties in a neighbouring street. While several residents did not answer, those who did said there were no problems with excessive noise or nuisance from the pub.
- Miss X did not make any further complaints to the Council until January 2018. She reported falling asleep at 9pm and waking at 10 20pm when she heard music and people shouting and screaming. She went on to say the noise did not prevent her from sleeping. Miss X complained a couple of days later of loud music between 11 pm and 11 20 pm.
- The next complaint Miss X made to the Council was in May 2018 and was about cars racing around the car park. Miss X made further complaints in May about music and cars racing.
- The Council visited the pub on 23 June to observe the noise. Officers found people talking in the garden but no excessive noise or nuisance. Officers visited again on 28 July but did not witness any noise.
- The information provided by the Council in response to my enquiries indicated no complaints have been made by Miss X or Miss Z since August 2018.
- Miss X complains the Council has failed to take action to stop noise nuisance from a nearby pub. As explained, I am aware the problems have been ongoing for a number of years but I am only considering the period from January 2017.
- The Council is required to take action when it considers a noise nuisance is so excessive it constitutes a statutory nuisance. It then must issue an abatement notice and can consider prosecution if the noise continues. The law does not set down a threshold at which a noise becomes a statutory nuisance. For a noise to be a statutory nuisance it must:
- Unreasonably and substantially interfere with the use or enjoyment of a home or other premises; or
- Injure health or be likely to injure health.
- I will now complete my investigation as there is no evidence of administrative fault in this case.
Parts of the complaint that I did not investigate
- Miss X says she has been experiencing noise nuisance from the pub for several years. The Ombudsman expects individuals to bring complaints to him within 12 months of them first becoming aware of the problem. I have not seen any evidence to suggest Miss X could not have complained sooner if she considered the Council had not responded to her complaints.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman