With increasing housing density in our towns and cities, as well as our 24-hour lifestyles, noise at night is an increasing problem for many people. Where once you may have lived in a peaceful cul-de-sac, you may find yourself surrounded by student housing, dense apartment blocks, new shops, cafes or bars. Not only is noise from residents and customers an issue. We often hear complaints from people about late night and early morning delivery vehicles. You can hear a recent recording captured by one of our sound level meters, INSIDE a residential bedroom in Manchester, by clicking here. Another example is found here.
The World Health Organization’s Night Noise Guidelines for Europe note that night noise can lead to an increase in cardiovascular disease, affect mental health, and affects metabolic and endocrine functions. Daytime sleepiness can interfere with work and social functioning.
Who says that noise can’t kill you? A 1980s study found that a reduction in sleep time is a greater mortality risk than smoking, hypertension and heart disease. In particular children, the elderly, and those with ill health, are considered vulnerable to the effects of sleep disturbance
Interestingly, different types of noise have different effects. Noise is more likely to elicit an adverse reaction if we perceive it to be due to thoughtlessness or lack of consideration from others, if it is frightening, or if we perceive that it is indefinite. This accounts for why noise from neighbours is the most common source of noise complaints to Local Authorities in the UK. This is something we feel needs to be taken into account much more in the planning process; introducing high density residential developments into areas which were previously suburban terraces also means the potential for more antisocial behaviour and late night noise; this is now often an issue where private sector student accommodation is being located in residential neighbourhoods.
In acoustic terms, ‘night time’ is between 11pm and 7am. It would therefore be appropriate for more Local Authorities to place controls on delivery vehicles to preserve this quiet time for residents. Similarly licensing committees need to consider not only noise emissions from bars and restaurants, but the typical late-night routes from these premises likely to be taken by patrons and whether they are introducing a new noise source into residential areas.
Cuts to Local Authority budgets mean that night noise teams are underfunded and overstretched. Often there is only physical cover for a couple of nights a week by one or two officers, who are unable to respond to the vast majority of calls received. More responsibility therefore needs to be put onto landlords and business owners to ensure that antisocial behaviour is controlled, for example with rigidly enforced tenancy clauses threatening termination if repeated noise complaints are received.
Change happens, and is necessary, but with some forethought and consideration, a lot of these problems might be avoided.