A few months ago I started to notice a a low-pitched, pulsating noise at night-time, like a car engine or electrical generator. I don't know if I've become more "attuned" to it or if the noise has worsened, but it seems to be almost non-stop now and it's keeping me up every night.

I believe I have tracked down the noise to an electrical closet attached to a nearby building, but it is hard to be 100% sure if this is the source because other buildings and street noise get in the way of any investigation.

Council Involvement

I have been in contact with the council (a London borough), and while their response seemed promising initially, it's been a while since I've heard from them - and in the meantime, I'm not able to sleep properly.

I don't want to wait an indefinite amount of time for a response that may ultimately prove unhelpful. Can anything be done to speed things along? Are there any alternative solutions I might pursue? Would there be any merit to asking my neighbours if they have also been troubled by the noise?

  • OT: I have experienced this sort of thing, and found there is difference in the sound depending on my position in the room, or being on one side of the bed or other (and the placing of the bed). Acoustics is a strange thing. Oct 19, 2023 at 22:42

1 Answer 1


See gov.uk guidance about Noise nuisances: how councils deal with complaints. Your local authority's website might also have a page about it - many do.

If you haven't already, you could tell the council this is harming your health. In effect this is a claim that the noise is a 'statutory nuisance'.

Section 79 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 says that the local authority must take reasonable steps to investigate complaints of 'statutory nuisances', including noise. It is a legal duty of the council.

79 Statutory nuisances and inspections therefor.E+W

(1)[F2 Subject to subsections (1A) to (6A) below], the following matters constitute “statutory nuisances” for the purposes of this Part, that is to say—


(ga) noise that is prejudicial to health or a nuisance and is emitted from or caused by a vehicle, machinery or equipment in a street [F6or in Scotland, road];]


and it shall be the duty of every local authority to cause its area to be inspected from time to time to detect any statutory nuisances which ought to be dealt with under section 80 below [F7or sections 80 and 80A below] and, where a complaint of a statutory nuisance is made to it by a person living within its area, to take such steps as are reasonably practicable to investigate the complaint.

(There are three exceptions, which don't seem to fit your circumstances.)

If the council determines there is a statutory nuisance then they must serve an abatement notice on the person responsible. It is a criminal offence to ignore the notice.

Regularly follow up your communications with the council. Keep a simple log of what you did and when, and how and when they responded.

Canvass your neighbours, they may well be troubled too, and the more people complaining the more inclined the council may be to do something sooner rather than later.

If the council isn't persuaded the noise is prejudicial to health then you will need your neighbours. To be a 'statutory nuisance', i.e. something the council must act on, a nuisance that is not prejudicial to health must affect the occupiers of more than one premises.

Along with guidance similar to the above, Shelter's page about noise nuisance also provides guidance about your options when the council will not help.

  • 1
    Update: None of my neighbours responded, but the council eventually sent round a couple of out-of-hours noise officers who were able to locate - sure enough - an enormous generator, just a stone's throw from my flat. I am quite hopeful that this will be classified as a statutory nuisane, but we shall see. Thank you for the detailed response.
    – Dan
    Nov 6, 2023 at 17:26

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