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 DfI Roads.