Guidance on Noise Nuisance
ALIGNMENT of ASB PART 5 NOISE ISSUESAND ASB PART 1 STRATEGIES
- The survey of local authorities has identified that a key issue, and one which applies to noise complaints generally, is that the receiving, and first screening, of ASB noise complaints can lead to significant double handling by the many agencies involved, giving rise to confusion. Poor communications may result in a significant waste of expensive professional resources. This may be aggravated by the actions of the complainants, who in their frustration, or lack of understanding, make several complaints to various agencies, thus adding to potential for confusion. This is particularly bad in larger local authorities, but it is likely to occur to a significant degree in most local authorities. From the residents point of view, when lodging a complaint out of hours, there is the added uncertainty about whom to complain to, and it seems very likely that many noise complaints (including those not of an ASB nature) will be directed toward the Police, thus unnecessarily adding to their workload.
- It is therefore recommended that each local authority establish an ASB noise screening process so as to make an initial screening of incoming telephone calls prior to directing the ASB noise complaint to the appropriate agency (possibly by email?), and in accordance with the ASBA Part 1 adopted local strategy agreement. This process is illustrated in Figure 7.4.
- To make such a system work effectively a public awareness campaign will need to be run. (Belfast has undertaken a similar exercise on a smaller scale. Each Police Station in Belfast is visited annually by an EHO to ensure that contact details for the night noise service are prominently displayed within the station for the benefit of the public and the duty desk sergeant. In this way all calls received by the Police in respect of noise at night are routed to the night noise service.) It is however, recognised that complainants may still wish to report party/loud music noise complaints to the Police. A well and regularly run awareness campaign should minimise this with time. It will remain for the Police to filter out, from such complaints, those where a Public Disorder or other potential misdemeanour may be involved.
- The requirement, under Part 1 of the ASBA, to 'set a local strategy for ASB' will enable each local authority to decide the appropriate level of response for their area, based on best value principles. From the information obtained in the tele-survey three models are offered for consideration.
Model 1 (Direct Action by Noise Response Team )
- Using Model 1 the local authority elects to provide a 24/7 cover for ASB noise complaints. The first step would be for the ASB noise complaint to be filtered and classified as a genuine complaint by the LA ASB Noise screening process as described in Annex 4.
- First screening of these calls would be by Clerical Support Officers (CROs) working to a questions script as set out at Annex 4. Genuine ASB noise complaints would then be forwarded (by email) to the relevant mailbox for the Agency identified by the Part 1 ASBA local strategy for each LA.
- For Model 1 it is suggested that a Noise Response Team act as the primary Agency to receive the Stage 1 Reports from the CROs.
- The CRO team would also make monthly reports to the Scottish Executive (SE) on the Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3 Outcomes of ASB Noise complaints. To do this they would need to facilitate and collect reports from the relevant agencies tasked with completion of the Stage 2 and Stage 3 investigations and Outcome(s) reporting.
- On receipt of the Stage 1 report, of what is likely to be a genuine ASB Noise complaint, the (Trained Technical Officers) TTO in the relevant Agency would then be responsible for initiating appropriate follow up action by making a Stage 2 Assessment (with an associated report to the CRO team) and possibly a Stage 3 investigation and assessment (again with an associated report to the CRO Team).
- In summary, the above process for Model 1 would be: the LA Noise Response Team (NRT) receives the contact information from the ASB Noise Contact Centre, preferably by email. This team would operate up to 24*7, or perhaps to 2 am weekdays and 4 am weekend days, as appropriate.
Stage 1 screening by CROs with report to NRT.
- It is recommended that this NRT be led by EHOs (and/or Trained Technical Officers (TTOs)) and supported by ASB Officers experienced in noise complaints.
- Given the importance and sensitivity of party/loud music ASB noise complaints it is vital that a clear understanding is forged between the NRT and the Police regarding how such calls will be dealt with. (It may also be useful to have a Community Police Officer seconded (part-time) to work within the NRT, particularly during the set up period. This will be a key issue to be agreed between the parties when agreeing the ASBA Part 1 Local Strategy Agreement.
- When the NRT receives a Stage 1 report of an ASB noise complaint they will carry out the Stage 2 and 3 assessments/investigations as illustrated, in outline, in Figure 7.4. The Stage 2 assessment should be assisted by the initial Stage 1 report received from the CROs which should provide all the essential contact and other details.
- The NRT will may also be able to establish, from their local knowledge or records, a previous 'history' from the complainant or the likely noise maker.
- As part of the above process the NRT will make a risk assessment according to their own operational guidelines and the Part 1 Local Strategy agreement with the Police and either elect to respond to the call under ASBA FPN procedures, with or without Police in attendance, for all or part of the process, or on health and safety grounds refer the matter to the Police for action under CG(S)A sec. 54.
- It is to be hoped that, based on the experience of Dundee and West Lothian that the NRT approach with EHOs/TTOs providing 'noise expertise' and ASB Officers providing 'expertise in dealing with ASB situations' that most ASB noise complaints, including party/loud music noise complaints will be handled without direct Police intervention.
- When the NRT attends to make a site investigation and finds that the situation should either be referred to the Police for action under CG(S)A Section 54, the use of s54 would still be a possible option. Alternately the NRT may require Police back up to issue a FPN.
The NRT will provide the CRO Team with Stage 2 and Stage 3 reports (by email).
The CRO Team will make monthly reports on ASB noise complaints to the SE.
Model 2 (Combined Direct and Delayed Action by NRT)
- This model is intended for use in local authorities which have a smaller proportion of urban housing and a significant proportion of suburban and rural housing. For these local authorities there may not be a justification for a 24/7 NRT cover but provide only NRT cover for certain 'noise hotspots' at certain times (for example weekends only).
- Under this Model the Part 1 Local Strategy Agreement relating to party/loud music ASB noise complaints would reflect local needs to get best use of resources for both the local authority and Police. The form of NRT cover may dictate, for example, that during weekday out of hours periods the LA ASB Noise Contact Centre would automatically refer party/loud music noise complaints to the Police (by email) with a copy of the email going to the NRT for delayed follow up, NRT action by telephone the next day and the establishment of a history of the complaint. (It is recognised that for smaller LAs the ASB Noise Contact Centre may well be combined with other 'emergency response services' to ensure best value use of resources.)
- The primary advantage of this approach is that the Police would, in general, only receive party/loud music noise complaints, rather than the wider range of more general noise complaints which they may well receive at present (particularly out of hours.
- When responding to any ASB noise complaint the NRT would follow established risk assessment procedures, may ask for Police support, or may refer the call to the Police for action, all as previously described for Model 1.
- Clearly there would be scope for adjoining local authorities to pool resources and/or provide a service when establishing and operating NRTs.
Model 3 (Delayed NRT Action Model )
- For certain rural areas (the Islands, Highlands and parts of Perth and Kinross and others) the very low level of noise complaints, generally, and of ASB noise complaints in particular, would appear to make investment in the Model 1 or Model 2 type of out of hours reactive service seem poor value for money.
- For Model 3 it is recommended that the Part 1 Local Strategy Agreement would be based on a form of the delayed action Model 2 but probably with all out of hours ASB noise complaints relating to party/loud Noise, that are received at the LA ASB Contact Centre, being referred directly to the Police for action under the CG(S)A section 54.
- (It is recognised that for smaller LAs the ASB Contact Centre may well be combined with other 'emergency response services' to ensure best value use of resources.) This would be done by email to the Police mailbox, with a copy going to the NRT for delayed follow up action, all previously described in Model 1 and 2.
- It is recommended that one or two administrative support staff be designated as CROs responsible for first screening and facilitating the provision of Monthly Reports to the SE all as previously described for Models 1 and 2.
ASB Noise Complaints Monitoring
- Monitoring of the outcomes at each key stage in the process, from first receipt of a call through to the final outcome(s), is essential to facilitate an evaluation of the success of the ASBA provisions in controlling ASBA noise, and also for an evaluation of the alignment of ASBA Parts 1 and 5. The Scottish Executive intend to review the effectiveness of the ASBA Noise provisions, including the permitted noise levels, one year after implementation, and therefore effective local authority monitoring systems will be a prerequisite for evaluation and future planning.
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