Various Applicable Laws
There is no single law dealing with the control of noise. There are a number of distinct pieces of legislation which may be relevant in relation to the abatement of noise. Many of these are monitored and enforced by the local authority.
There is a mechanism by which the local authority can serve a notice requiring the abatement of noise. In the workplace, the Health, and Safety Authority enforce certain standards.
Where there is substantial and continuing noise, it may be possible to make a common law claim for nuisance. A nuisance may be constituted by undue and unreasonable noise which interferes with the adjoining owner or occupier. The court may make an order of compensation and/or grant an injunction to prevent or mitigate noise. See the section on civil wrongs.
Planning and Building Regulations
Planning permissions frequently make provision for the mitigation of noise. It is common that building works must only take during specified hours. Where planning permission is granted for a leisure or industrial business which may impact upon the environment, conditions and limits may be placed on the maximum noise that may be permitted. Breach of these conditions would constitute a breach of planning permission.
Planning authorities are obliged to make an action plan, which must address priorities based on excessive noise, relative to noise limit values or criteria established by the Environmental Protection Agency. The action plans must comply with minimum requirements and in particular, must aim to protect quiet areas. The legislation defines certain noise indicators and noise levels in technical terms. There is provision in relation to access to environmental information. Strategic noise maps and action plans are to be made available to the public.
The Planning Act development plan may effectively regulate noise, through the zoning of different types of use in urban areas. Noise is one of the environmental factors which are relevant in making the development plan, granting planning permissions and permitting uses.
The building regulations seek to ensure the design and construction of buildings in a manner that ensures resistance to sound. The relevant technical guidance embodies good building practice and makes practical requirements in relation to the noise containment.
Public Health and Occupational Safety
Public health legislation, enacted at the end of the nineteenth century, requires licensing of rooms and places for music and dancing. The Public Dance Halls Act requires a licence for the use of public places for public dancing. The first type of license applies in local authority areas, where the relevant part of the Public Health Amendment Act, 1890 is in force. The Public Dance Halls licensing regime is part of the licensing code. Applications for licenses are made to the District Court on notice to the Garda Síochána and fire authority.
See the sections on the licensing of indoor and outdoor places of entertainment and funfairs under planning legislation. Conditions may be imposed relevant to noise and nuisance.
The Health, Safety and Welfare at Work legislation makes specific provision in respect of protection from noise. Regulations may provide for exposure limits. In noisy environments, the use of protective equipment is required so as to ensure limits and sound values are not exceeded.
The Minister for the Environment has the power to make regulations which specify noise limits generally or in particular areas or sectors. Noise includes vibrations.
The regulations may specify maximum noise limits from or in premises of a particular type. The regulations may provide for the regulation of trade processes and works, including permitted hours, control of the movement of vehicles, the operations of engines and other plant which are the source of noise. The regulations may limit or prohibit the use of loudspeakers in or adjoining public places.
Noise Abatement Notices
Local authorities have the power to serve notices on persons in charge of premises when they consider it necessary to do so, in order to prevent or limit noise.
The Environment Protection Agency has the requisite power in relation to activities licensed by it. There are no scientific definitions of noise, in this context, but certain guidelines are used in practice.
The Environmental Protection Agency Act provides for noise abatement notices. Breach of a noise abatement notice is an offence, which may be prosecuted in the District Court. Local authorities must keep a register of noise abatement notices made. It must be open for inspection by the public. Copies may be taken at a reasonable fee.
A notice by the local authority or EPA may specify the noise prevention or limitation measures required. It may direct compliance and specify a period within which such measures must be taken. The person served with the notice may make representations within a certain period. The local authority or EPA may confirm, amend or revoke the notice, having heard the representations.
Complaint to District Court
Once the notice becomes final, failure to comply may be prosecuted in the District Court. The local authority may take such steps as are necessary to secure compliance and recover the cost of enforcement against the owner or occupier.
It is a defence to prosecution for excessive noise arising from a business, that the business took all reasonable steps to prevent or limit the noise by providing, maintaining, operating or supervising facilities or using practices and methods of operation which were suitable for the prevention or limitation of noise.
It is an offence to breach noises limits set by an EPA licence or regulations made by the Department of the Environment. A defendant may rely on the defence that he is using the best available techniques to abate the noise.
A local authority, the EPA or any other person affected, may complain to the District Court where noise is so loud, continuous and repeated or for such duration or pitch or occurring at such times so as to cause annoyance to a person in the neighbourhood or to persons using a public place. The applicant must first serve notice in the prescribed form warning of the intention to make the application to the District Court.
The Court may make an order requiring the person responsible to take measures to reduce noise to a specified level or take specified measures to limit or prevent the noise. There are similar defences to those set out above.
By-Laws and Regulations and Licences
Local authorities may make bye-laws in relation to noise under Local Government Acts. The Gardai or local authority may prosecute for breach of these byelaws. The building regulations contain a provision in relation to the noise resistance of buildings.
A significant amount of EU based legislation places noise standards on machinery and equipment. These are now encompassed in mandatory standards.
Dances, nightclubs, pubs, restaurants, entertainment venues are subject to licensing law. See our separate guides on licensing laws. Objections may be made to the renewal of licences on multiple bases, including excessive noise. Licences may be made subject to such conditions in respect of noise as the licensing authority specifies.
Funfairs as well as major indoor and outdoor events are licensed by local authorities. Conditions may be imposed in respect of various matters including noise.
EU Regulations on Noise
Regulations on noise have been made pursuant to EU Directive. The Regulations do not apply to noise caused by domestic activities, neighbours and noise at the workplace. Under the legislation, certain bodies including Councils, the National Roads Authority, Iarnród Eireann and Airport authorities are obliged to prepare strategic noise maps in respect of certain area. Over time, noise mapping will be required in respect of major urban areas.
Regulations on noise may specify the maximum limits for noise in particular areas or classes of areas. They may specify limits for noises for premises of a particular type, generally or for a specific period. Regulations may regulate the operation, licensing of trades, processing of work, timing and controlling of movements of vehicles and operations of plant and engine.
EU Directives apply noise standards to a range of goods and equipment. The standards include provisions on the minimisation of noise. There are provisions applicable to commonly found domestic goods, such as refrigerators, tumble dryers, ovens, dishwashers etc. and some other household appliances. EU Legislation applies to a range of outdoor equipment with potential noisemaking characteristics including construction equipment, garden equipment and various such equipment.
Assessment of Noise
EU Directive requires the assessment and management of environmental noise by certain public utility companies and public authorities. Strategic noise maps must be made for major urban areas which exceed certain numbers of inhabitants, for major roads exceeding a certain number of users, for trains exceeding a certain number of passengers and for major airports.
Action plans are required so as to secure the reduction of noise levels by certain target dates.
There are specific regulations applicable to airports. This required Aer Rianta to establish a noise management strategy for Dublin Airport.
\q2Noise is dealt with, under both Irish and EU legislation on road traffic. Silencers and similar devices are required to be kept and maintained on vehicles. Vehicles may not be used with a public address allowed speaker, without local authority license. Vehicles may not be used in the public place to cause excessive noise which could be avoided by reasonable care. It is an offence to use a vehicle without an exhaust silencer.
EU Regulations deal with vehicles, including domestic and commercial use vehicles. They specify maximum permissible noise emission levels. Motor vehicles are subject to detailed standards, in relation to maximum permissible noise.
Under EU type approval regulations, there are provision for to noise emissions limits from vehicles. Vehicles completing the National Car Test must comply with the requisite standards. There is legislation which limits noise from aircrafts and airports. There are restrictions on flights at certain times.
The Irish Aviation Authority has made orders implementing the International Convention on Noise from Supersonic Aircraft and propellers of an Airplane. Generally scheduled jet aircraft lights are not permitted between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. There is an exception for charter flights and certain other cases.
The regulations of noise derived from international standards, made under the auspices of the International Civil Aviation Authority. The EU has also prescribed standards and regulations in the area.
The engines of jet planes are subject to particular standards in relation to noise certification.
The Minister for Transport may prohibit buildings within a certain distance of an aerodrome. Planning controls may limit the presence of residential development in the area of an airport. The Irish Aviation Authority must be consulted in relation to planning applications in the vicinity of airports.
The Air Navigation Act provides that no action shall lie for nuisance by reason only of the overflight of aircraft, at a height above ground which having regard to wind, weather and circumstances is reasonable or is an ordinary incident of the flight, subject to compliance with air traffic and like legislation and international standards generally.
A complaint may be made to the District Court ordering the occupier of apremises in which a dog is kept, in order to abate the nuisance caused by a barking dog. The Court may order a limitation on the number of dogs. It may direct that the dog be delivered to the dog warden to be dealt with as an unwanted dog.
The Control of Dogs Act makes specific provision for abatement of excessive noise from a barking dog. It is possible to apply directly to the District Court for an order abating a nuisance. due to failure to exercise control over a dog.
The court may make such orders as may be required in relation to the keeping of dogs. Ultimately, a dog can be directed to be dealt with as an unwanted dog.