Environmental noise

Environmental noise is unwanted or harmful outdoor sound created by people working in industry or travelling by road, railway or air. For most people it is a downside to living in a busy, vibrant society with a mature economy.

What the law says about environmental noise

The Environmental Noise Directive deals with industrial noise and noise from road, railway and airport sources in:

  • urban residential areas
  • public parks
  • quiet areas in open country, near schools, hospitals and noise-sensitive buildings

The law is in place to avoid, prevent and reduce the harmful effects of environmental noise on people.

Investigating complaints about environmental noise

There are different organisations responsible for investigating complaints about environmental noise.

  • road traffic noise: TransportNI
  • railway noise: Translink
  • industrial noise: Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and district councils
  • construction noise: district councils
  • airport or aircraft noise:  airport owner
  • road vehicle noise: PSNI

Road traffic noise

People often complain about noise from road traffic. This can include disturbance caused by motor horns, faulty exhaust pipes or the relentless volume of passing traffic.

Using motor horns

The Highway Code says when you can use a motor horn:

  • the sounding of a horn when a vehicle is stationary is prohibited, unless there is danger from a moving vehicle
  • the sounding of horns from moving vehicles on restricted roads between 11.30 pm and 7.00 am is also prohibited, except when another road user poses a danger
  • horns should not be used aggressively and should be used only to warn other road users of your presence

To complain about illegal use of motor horns or vehicles with faulty silencers, you should tell the police.

To reduce noise caused by road traffic:

  • traffic can be routed away from noise sensitive areas
  • new roads can divert traffic away from built up areas
  • people can be protected in their homes by sound insulation and noise barriers

To complain about traffic routes or the control of traffic, you should contact TransportNI.

Noise insulation against environmental noise

The Noise Insulation Regulations apply to new and altered public roads. You might be eligible for a noise insulation grant if you live within 300 metres of a new or altered public road and experience increased noise from the road’s traffic.

You need to be living in your home  before the road was first opened to public traffic. The grant pays for home improvements to reduce the noise level and can cover:

  • double glazed windows and external doors
  • extra ventilation
  • venetian blinds

The noise level is assessed in bedrooms and living rooms but not in a kitchen.

For more information about noise insulation grants, contact:

Lands and legislation branch
Department for Infrastructure

  • telephone: 028 9054 0140

Compensation for homeowners

The Land Acquisition and Compensation Order can pay compensation if your home loses value due to noise, vibration or lighting caused by a new or altered public road.

If you’re eligible, you can claim one year after the new or altered road opens to public traffic.

Lands and legislation branch
Department for Infrastructure

  • telephone: 028 9054 0140

Industrial noise

Industrial works must prevent or minimise noise. If you are concerned about noise from industrial premises, you should contact NIEA or the district council.

NIEA and district councils are responsible for preventing and controlling industrial noise pollution. They don’t investigate the same noise problem. When you complain to either about noise, they’ll tell you if they can help or refer you elsewhere.

If they uphold your complaint about noise, they can fine the offender and take enforcement action to make sure the noise decreases.

District councils investigate noise complaints about any factory which is operating during night hours, 11.00 pm until 7.00 am.

Construction noise

Building, demolition and excavation machinery can operate from 7.00 am until 7.00 pm during weekdays and 8.00 am until 1.00 pm on Saturdays. If you want to complain about noise from construction sites, contact the district council.

Airport or aircraft noise

In line with a planning agreement, flights at George Best Belfast City Airport cannot take off or land before 6.30 am or after 9.30 pm.

The restrictions don’t apply to Belfast International Airport or City of Derry Airport. If you have other noise complaints about commercial aircraft or an airport, you should contact the airport.

For military aircraft there are no restrictions on take off and landing times. If you have other noise complaints about military aircraft, contact G9.

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