Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill

MEMORANDUM SUBMITTED BY ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION UK (PR 74)

Summary

1. In this submission Environmental Protection UK reiterate our firmly held view, submitted, in response to the ‘Rebalancing the Licensing Act’ consultation, that the police should be enabled to take action to mitigate excessive noise from premises – power which is already available to local authorities in England and Wales (and Scotland), and in Scotland to the Police under Section 54 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act). We urge the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Public Bill Committee to incorporate a clause to this effect. Such a power would enable the police to respond to the many complaints about noise they receive, and facilitate early intervention in many cases where excessive noise is indicative of wider anti social and unlawful activity, for example harassment and drug dealing.

Environmental Protection UK

2. Environmental Protection UK (EPUK) brings together organisations from across the public, private and voluntary sectors to promote a balanced and innovative approach to understanding and solving environmental problems, through policy development and education. We provide expert policy analysis and advice on issues that effect people and communities in terms of public health, planning, transport, energy and climate. We are a registered charity with over 110 year’s experience of environmental campaigning, public information provision, producing educational resources and policy formulation. Our members include regulators and practitioners from local authorities, consultants, developers, academics and industry. With 10 regional divisions across the UK, we are able to draw on a wide range of expertise and views on which to base our input into legislation and policy that affects the quality of our local environments.

3. Many of our members are ‘Responsible Authorities’ as defined by the Licensing Act 2003 and involved in the day to management of noise problems associated with licensed premises, and wider issues of neighbourhood noise in communities.

4. Environmental Protection UK welcomes measures in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill to give local communities more effective ways of addressing noise from licensed activities. In particular we welcome extension of the right of objection to a Temporary Event Notice to environmental health, and the intention to allow licensing authorities to apply existing license conditions to a Temporary Event Notice. We also welcome the intention to enable licensing authorities to set licensing fees based on full cost recovery, and to suspend licenses due to non payment of fees.

Evidence

5. Many noise problems occur at night and past surveys have shown that many local authorities do not have a night time noise service due to inadequate resource [1] . Surveys have also shown that many people call the police rather than the local authority to report a neighbour noise problem, as demonstrated by the BRE Noise Attitude Survey 2002 [2] and a survey by MORI in 2003. A survey by MORI for NSCA (now EPUK) in 2006 [3] found little change in exposure to noise from licensed premises. As an existing mobile 24 hour service the police are well placed to respond to complaints.

6. For day time noise problems, where noise makers are not willing to reduce the volume of a noise that is causing disturbance to neighbours, a local authority environmental protection officer will need prove nuisance in order to take further action.

Powers for the police on noise

7. This Bill presents an opportunity to empower the police to give more support to the work of local authorities in dealing with noise complaints – particularly those out of normal office hours. Common sense dictates that it would be cost effective overall if the police – who receive many complaints about noise, are empowered to act on them. In Scotland, the police have the power under sec. 54 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 [4] , to request that anyone giving " reasonable cause for annoyance " by playing loud music etc can be requested to desist, subject to penalties, by a constable in uniform. Colleagues in Scotland report that this is immediately effective . .

8. For local authority environmental protection services, many of whom are our members, much of their work is reactive in responding to complaints about noise problems, and retrospective investigation of complaints about out of hours noise where there is no night time service, are not easy to investigate.

9. Some local authorities already work effectively in partnership with the police on noise and associated issues causing disturbance to neighbours. We believe giving police the power to deal with noise complaints will support those partnerships already in place, and encourage closer working between the local authority and the police where they are not. As resources are stretched in all public services closer co-ordination should be mutually beneficial.

10. For those in communities disturbed by unreasonable noise – whether individuals or a number of neighbours - during the day or night, a power for the police to knock on the door and request a reduction in volume would be very welcome – and the intervention of a uniformed officer has proved to be effective in Scotland.

11. EPUK therefore request the inclusion of a clause be incorporated in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill amending the Noise Act 1996 to allow the police to request that where there is " reasonable cause for annoyance " for noise form premises, that the noise be abated. There may also be scope for adding a power under Environmental Protection Act to require the police to investigate complaints about noise under section 79(g) – that is "noise emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance".

12. These options do not represent new powers, and we would not expect these to be considered to come within the scope of the ‘one-in, one-out’ rule on regulation, but a logical extension of an existing power. They would support the overall aim of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill in assisting the police in responding to the needs of their communities and support the building of better partnerships between the authorities responsible for supporting safe and healthy communities.

January 2011


[1] NSCA (now Environmental Protection UK) Noise Survey 1998, - 2003

[2] National Noise Attitude Survey 2000, BRE

[3] MORI National Noise Survey 2006

[4] See http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1982/45