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Decision details

Review of Operation of the Councils Out of Hours Noise Service

Decision Maker: Executive Councillor for Environment, Climate Change and Biodiversity

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Is Key decision?: Yes

Is subject to call in?: No

Purpose:

Future operation of the Out of Hours Noise Service, (based on the outcome of the evaluation).

Decision:

Matter for Decision

The Council has a legal duty to investigate statutory nuisance within its area under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. However, the law does not specify how to exercise this duty, it is therefore the responsibility of each Local Authority to establish its own procedures for investigating complaints of noise that may amount to statutory nuisance.

 

The Councils Out of Hours Noise Service operated for the last 25 years, which, until October 2019, operated 7pm – 7am Monday – Friday; and 9am – 5pm, and 7pm – 7am, respectively on weekends and Bank Holidays. This approach required significant staffing levels and tied up staff time in reactive, rather than targeted pro-active service work.

 

The primary purpose of the previous Out of Hours Noise Service was to allow residents to log initial noise complaints and for officers to contact complainants to gather information and evidence to determine the existence of a statutory noise nuisance. Referrals would then be made to the daytime team to take appropriate enforcement action in relation to applicable cases of ongoing noise disturbance persistently detrimentally affecting the quiet enjoyment of someone’s home.

 

Following a review of Council Out of Hours services, including noise, combined with a difficulty recruiting to Out of Hours Noise Service posts, and the availability of new ‘self-help’ evidence gathering technologies and equipment, the Council committed to trial a new Out of Hours Noise Service approach.

 

This trial moved away from residents having access to officers to discuss their complaint and / or request a visit out of hours, to all noise complaints being passed to daytime officers within Environmental Health to discuss their complaint and / or arrange a proactive, pre-arranged visit(s). The trial adopted a proactive planned approach, supported by evidence gathering technologies and equipment, for witnessing of noise disturbances out of hours. This new approach enabled complaints to be triaged more effectively and for staff resources to be deployed in a more efficient way.

 

The trial of this new approach has been evaluated and the results fully support its adoption on a permanent basis, in place of the previous reactive and inefficient Out of Hours Service model.

 

Decision of Executive Councillor for Climate Change, Environment & City Centre

  i.  Noted the results of the pro-active and planned Out of Hours Noise Service trial

  ii.  Approved (based on the trial evaluation results) the adoption of the pro-active and planned Service approach on a permanent basis, supported use of evidence gathering technologies and equipment, in place of the reactive and inefficient Service model.

 

Reason for the Decision

As set out in the Officer’s report.

 

Any Alternative Options Considered and Rejected

Not applicable.

 

Scrutiny Considerations

The Committee received a report from the Environmental Health Manager.

 

The Environmental Health Manager said the following in response to Members’ questions:

  i.  An evidenced based action was a better way forward based on kit loaned out by the council, rather than a visit by a council officer to witness anti-social behaviour.

  ii.  People could report issues in the same way as the 24/7 service by ringing the Customer Access Centre during office hours. An officer would contact them within three working days (usually less). The officer would discuss options with the concerned resident. The council would triage options based on evidence submitted and manage expectations on options available as some issues were civil matters outside of the council’s control. The process was the same as before except for having someone at the end of a phone 24/7.

  iii.  Customer Access Centre call handlers had been trained on how to give information in response to reported issues. Case Officers would follow up the next working day after a call had been logged.

  iv.  A councillor briefing session was planned to give information on how members could offer support to residents.

  v.  Only a small minority of councils provided a 24/7 answer service so moving away from this put Cambridge City in line with the majority. The service was not stopped, just refocussed. Some councils provided less.

  vi.  The Customer Access Centre provided a single point of contact for residents and made it easier for the council to triage noise complaints so officers could effectively manage expectations on what the council could do to respond.

 vii.  The Officer’s report set out the number of reported noise complaint cases. Most were during the day.

viii.  The amount of noise monitoring kit had increased from one item to two. These could be loaned out for up to a week. Officers never refused to loan out items, but there may sometimes be a delay until kit became available.

  ix.  Residents would be contacted about the service through various channels such as Open Door. Feedback was welcome on how effective this was.

  x.  The Enforcement Team gave feedback on planning applications to advise on relevant conditions to mitigate noise issues e.g., during construction. Officers monitored the situation and acted where required.

 

Councillors requested a change to the recommendations. Councillor Payne proposed to add the following recommendations to those in the Officer’s report:

1.  Note the results of the pro-active and planned Out of Hours Noise Service trial; and

2.  Based on the trial evaluation results, to approve the adoption of the pro-active and planned Service approach for a further 12 months, pending a further review and report to Environment and Communities Scrutiny Committee when a full year's data is available. on a permanent basis, supported use of evidence gathering technologies and equipment, in place of the reactive and inefficient Service model. 

 

The Committee rejected the recommendation by 6 votes to 4.

 

The Environmental Health Manager offered to bring a report back to committee in October on how the service was progressing.

 

The Committee resolved by 6 votes to 0 to endorse the (unamended) substantive recommendations as set out in the Officer’s report.

 

The Executive Councillor approved the recommendations.

 

Conflicts of Interest Declared by the Executive Councillor (and any Dispensations Granted)

No conflicts of interest were declared by the Executive Councillor.

Publication date: 06/06/2022

Date of decision: 28/01/2022