Are Suffolk residents getting noisier or have we just been home too much?

A rainy Ipswich town centre

When streets were empty people may have noticed the tiniest sound from their neighbours - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Suffolk and Essex's residents were increasingly complaining about their noisy neighbours over the long pandemic months compared to previous years. 

Councils in our areas saw noise complaint reports jump while people were stuck in the home, according to research by Churchill Home Insurance. 

The Freedom of Information requests show between April 2020 and March 2021 Ipswich saw a 30.2% rise moving from 305 to 397 compared to the same period in the 2019/2020 period. 

Noise complaints in Babergh and Mid Suffolk were 641 in 2019/20 and 815 in 2020/21, an increase of 27.1%, East Suffolk had 880 reports pre-pandemic and 985 reports after, a jump of 11.9%, and West Suffolk had 327 2019/20 reports and 360 2020/21 reports, a 10.1% increase. 

Essex was more of a mixed picture when it came to noise complaints. Tendring saw 131 2019/20 reports compared to 251 in 2020/21, a 91.6% increase, and Braintree went from 37 pe-pandemic to 56 after the pandemic, an increase of 51.4%. In contrast, Maldon saw reports go down from 292 to 239, an 18.2% reduction.

Alasdair Ross

Ipswich Borough Council's community protection portfolio holder Alasdair Ross - Credit: Archant


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Ipswich Borough Council's community protection portfolio holder Alasdair Ross said there were "many different reasons for this" increase including that IBC holds all the new noise reports now when a year ago they were kept also by the police and other services. 

The complaints, he claimed, are made up of loud noises, noises at night during unsociable hours and often mean mediation between neighbours. 

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"Some of the reporting are people breaking Covid rules and guidelines," Mr Ross said. "People do not realise the difference between rules and guidelines and this has made reporting hard."

He added the situation next year may change as "people are now back out and able to socialise outside the home". 

Mr Ross also warned people if IBC cannot sort the situation then they will "take people to court" if they cannot "sort it out". 

Andy Drummond, Newmarket and Red Lodge county councillor

Andy Drummond, Newmarket and Red Lodge county councillor - Credit: Amy Drummond

Councillor Andy Drummond, West Suffolk, portfolio holder for regulatory and environment, said: “The number of noise complaints that we receive does fluctuate, indeed in 2018/19 we received 416 so against that backdrop, even during periods of lockdown when more people were at home, noise complaints for the two subsequent years actually went down.

"Naturally we will always try to work with people to resolve these issues amicably without the need to issue abatement orders or fines although such powers remain available to us to use if problems persist.”

A spokesman for Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils, said:  “We understand the impact that persistent loud noise can have on people’s enjoyment of their homes and their health, which is why we take every complaint we receive seriously."

Psychologist Donna Dawson said the rise in complaints was understandable given the upheaval in people’s routines.

She said: “Even small changes in sound can cause increased anxiety and stress for many people, especially if it disrupts home life and makes it difficult to relax, work or look after family.”

She recommends that people speak to their neighbours, but not when they are feeling anxious or angry.

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