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Noise in the street
Sometimes activities and noise in the street can give cause for complaint. We can deal with noise in the street in some circumstances. This is when it is from stationary vehicles or from equipment. We are unable to deal with noise from traffic, noise from sirens attached to vehicles or from people.
It is an offence to use loudspeakers in a street at any time to advertise:
It is also an offence to use loudspeakers for any purpose in a street at night between 9.00 p.m. and 8 a.m.
The legislation covering the use of loudspeakers is section 62 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974. The offences carry an unlimited fine in the magistrates' court.
'Street' includes a highway and any other road, footway, square or court which is open to the public.
There are some exceptions to the controls. Loudspeakers can be used:
by the police
by the fire service
by the ambulance service
by the Environment Agency
by a water or sewage company
by a local council
by public transport operators to make announcements to passengers or prospective passengers (but not on a highway)
as a public address system
in or fixed to vehicles, if certain rules are followed (see below)
at a travelling pleasure fair
to direct a vessel
if the Council gives prior consent
in the case of an emergency
If used in a way unlikely to give reasonable cause for annoyance, loudspeakers can be used if they’re in or fixed to a vehicle. The loudspeaker must be operated solely to do one of the following:
warn other traffic (like a horn)
entertain drivers or passengers
communicate with passengers or drivers
alert people that fresh food or drink is on sale (without speaking) - such as chimes on ice cream vans (but only from 12.00 noon to 7.00 p.m.)
If an ice cream van operator is prosecuted or gets a noise abatement notice, but they’ve complied with the code of practice on noise from ice cream van chimes, they may be able to use this as grounds for an appeal or as a defence in court.
The noise made by vehicles is limited by The Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use Regulations) 1986. Vehicles must be fitted with an efficient exhaust silencer and road users not to make excessive noise or run the engine unnecessarily when stationary. The Regulations also create a number of offences. These are enforced by the police, not by the Council.
A horn should not be sounded when stationary on a road at any time, other than at times of danger due to another vehicle on or near the road.
A horn should not be used on a moving vehicle on a restricted road (basically a road that has street lights and a 30 mph limit) between the times of 11:30 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.
Private vehicles must not be fitted with a gong, bell, siren or two tone horn.
A vehicle's engine should not be left to run whilst the vehicle is stationary on a road.
Councils must serve an abatement notice on people responsible for statutory nuisances. If the nuisance is caused by unattended vehicles, machinery or equipment in the street, an abatement notice can be served by fixing the notice to the vehicle, machinery or equipment if the person responsible cannot be found.
Traffic noise is excluded from being a statutory nuisance, which means that we have no direct responsibility in relation to noise from traffic.
‘Busking’ is performing music, dance, street theatre or art in a public space for the purpose of receiving contributions from members of the public.
No licence is required to busk unless you are raising money for a charity, in which case you must hold a valid charity collection permit from the Council.
Newcastle has always been a popular place for busking. There are plenty of pitches and many people are happy to listen to street performers. The Council is happy to have buskers because they liven up the streets. However complaints can arise if the volume, duration and frequency of the noise is excessive for residents or local businesses.
Anyone disturbed by loud, continued or repeated singing or playing of musical instruments may ask a busker to stop - refusal to do so is an offence against local byelaws (under the Local Government Act 1972). When you make a complaint to the Council, officers will respond as soon as possible in order to assess the level of disturbance within your premises and talk to the buskers on your behalf.
In some cases, noise from buskers can be dealt with as a statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and an abatement notice served. Breaching an abatement notice is an offence. A nuisance however has to impact on the use or enjoyment of the complainant's own property. Therefore noise from busking cannot be a nuisance to you if you are walking past or shopping.
Loudspeakers are regulated under section 62 the Control of Pollution Act 1974 - this is national law. Under the Control of Pollution Act 1974 no use of loudspeakers is allowed in any street after 9 p.m. and before 8 a.m.
Advice for buskers
Responsible buskers are welcomed by the City Council.
Whenever you set out to perform on a street, you join an existing shops, businesses, street traders, residents, members of the public and other buskers. Before setting up, anticipate the impact that your act will have on other users of the space. Take care not to obstruct highways or shop entrances and to allow plenty of space for people to walk past you and any equipment. If you gather a crowd it is your responsibility to manage the situation sensibly and ensure normal use of the street can continue. Also, please show consideration for other street performers and avoid setting up so close to them such that the noise you make or the crowd you gather negatively impacts on their act.
Think carefully about the equipment you use, as musical instruments and amplifiers that are suited to the stage are not necessarily suited to busking in a street. Drumming is discouraged.
Where possible, introduce yourself to nearby businesses near to where you intend to perform and to rangers from NE1 (the Business Improvement District Company). By letting them know about your performance in advance you will make complaints less likely.
Make sure that you are aware of your volume. Get someone to help you fix your levels when you set up. Where possible, agree an appropriate level with the businesses around you. Often complaints made about busking are about how intrusive a sound is. It is not just about its volume - performances that are repetitive can cause more disturbance - and do take breaks.
It is advisable to consider changing your location after two hours, particularly if you intend to repeat your material.
We recommend not beginning to busk before 9 a.m. or after 6 p.m.
Local byelaws mean buskers can be asked to stop if the Council, NE1 or Northumbria Police receive a complaint.
Always be courteous to members of the public, members of the local business community and public officials if someone needs to speak to you. Anybody may ask a busker to stop if they are disturbed by:
loud, continued or repeated singing
playing instruments or using amplifiers
Refusal to stop would be an offence against the local byelaws.
Do not use loudspeakers during the prohibited hours.
Please see our Buskers Code of Conduct for more information.
If you have spent batteries from your equipment, you must take them back to a shop for recycling. Do not put them in a litter bin or leave them on the street.
Need more information?
To report illegal use of loudspeakers, nuisance caused by buskers or continuously sounding vehicle alarms, please contact:
Public Safety & Regulation
Newcastle upon Tyne
Telephone: 0191 278 7878 and ask for 'environmental health'