Noise and the Licensing Act 2003

We receive a large number of complaints about noise from licensed premises. The main two problems commonly reported are:

  • loud music
  • noise from customers, either whilst they are smoking outside or when they leave the premises

When applying for a new premises licence or amending an existing licence you need to state how you will satisfy the four licensing objectives, which are:

  • the prevention of crime and disorder
  • public safety
  • the prevention of public nuisance
  • the protection of children from harm

Noise is an important consideration in aiming to prevent public nuisance. Applicants need to consider whether noise from the premises could potentially be a problem to local residents.

Proposed noise control measures should be included in the premises licence application. If the premises licence is granted, the noise control proposals may be included, as conditions, on the premises licence.

If Environmental Health has concerns regarding how noise from the business will be controlled they may make a representation against the application.

Residential areas

If the premises is in a residential area, there may need to be tighter controls on noise, particularly if the premises open later than 11pm. At this time of night the background noise levels are likely to be a lot lower due to reduced traffic flows etc and many people go to bed. It would be unreasonable for excessive noise from your business to cause local residents sleep disturbance.

Flats above premises and/or residential properties attached to premises

Licence holders should ensure there is suitable sound insulation to cope with the level of noise the business will be producing. If the premises was not originally designed as a licensed premises (eg it was originally a shop), then quite possibly it may only have sound insulation of a domestic standard.

Applicants should seek advice about sound insulation from a qualified acoustic consultant.

How can noise from licensed premises be controlled?

Some examples of controls are:

Music noise

  • ensure windows and doors are kept closed whilst music is playing or after a certain time eg 10pm
  • install a front entrance lobby door system to reduce the noise that escapes when customers enter or leave the premises
  • insulate wall-mounted speakers or isolate them from the structure of the building
  • install noise limiters which are devices that can be wired into the sound system that will distort or shut off the music once a pre-set sound level is exceeded
  • reduce the low frequency content of the music tor educe risk of bass noise penetrating buildings
  • relocate the DJ or music system away from party walls or doors and windows

Noise from people smoking outside the premises

  • the introduction of the smoke-free legislation has led to an increase in the numbers of people congregating outside licensed premises. The Council receives many complaints from residents about the annoyance caused from raised voices outside licensed premises particularly if it is late
  • some licensees operate a policy where they don't allow customers to take drinks outside which encourages them to stay outside for as short a time as possible. Licences could also limit the number of people that are allowed outside at any one time

Beer gardens

  • measures include closing the garden to customers at a specified time to ensure there is not excessive late night noise

Noise from people leaving the premises late at night

  • the aim should be to move people away as quickly as possible
  • try to stagger the times customers leave