Getting a noise complaint investigated by Camden Council is notoriously difficult, with complaints often dragging on for years. How can you can increase your chances of getting a noise complaint properly investigated?
- Camden Council’s officers are generally incompetent, so it is best to avoid using their services if you can.
- There are a number of alternative options that you can attempt first, detailed below.
- If you make a noise complaint to Camden, you should follow our guide on how to do this or you could risk having your complaint ignored for months or even years.
- Camden can be notified by calling 020 7974 4444, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- You will need to get an officer to witness the noise at your address when it is occurring or Camden will not take action.
- Reporting number: 020 7974 4444
- Manager: email@example.com
Camden Council Incompetence
One has to be acutely aware that Camden Council is plagued by problems of sheer incompetence. If you don’t follow our guide carefully, your main battle will likely be against Camden’s employees rather than the nuisance maker themselves.
For this reason, you should try to avoid using Camden’s services at all. Some alternative methods for resolving noise complaints are detailed below, which are often far more successful.
Later in the article, a guide is detailed on how residents can ‘manage’ Camden’s officers for the greatest chances of success.
1. Try to Fix It Yourself
The vast majority of the time that a noise complaint arises, the individuals causing the noise aren’t aware of the trouble they’re causing.
It can sometimes be difficult to confront large groups of people to ask them to be quieter. But perhaps 90% of the time this will be successful, and has the benefit of causing an instant reprisal in the noise.
In the case of construction work from a residential property it can be more difficult. Some contractors will be understanding of your concerns, while others may not even speak a word of English. It is useful to remind contractors that in general, work noise outside the hours of 08:00 – 18:00 is illegal, and could be met with enforcement. However with construction work, especially if it is only short term, it is best to simply wait it out.
In the case of street works, not much can be done as these are often arranged by Camden.
Sometimes very loud street works will emerge late in the night or early morning without warning. This can cause residents to become enraged and confused about the works going on. Please bear in mind that when this happens it is usually due to emergency works, such as a burst water main or gas pipe, and nothing can be done to interrupt this noise. It usually abates within hours.
2. Notify the Police – Non Emergency
Perhaps due to problems of chronic incompetence from local authorities, police forces in London have now begun to investigate noise complaints as part of combatting antisocial behaviour. This can often be far more effective and useful than using the council.
You should not call 999 as a noise nuisance is not an emergency. But you can report the noise complaint online and a PCSO (Police Community Support Officer) will likely be sent out to investigate the nuisance within days.
This is most useful for long term noise complaints. In the case of a single party the officer may not arrive in time to address the complaint.
3. Notify the Police – Emergency
For parties, it can sometimes be the case that the behaviour of individuals is so reckless as to cause danger to the public or the individuals themselves. It could also be the case that the party-goers are engaging in criminal activity, using drugs or drinking in an inappropriate place.
In this case you can call 999 but be aware that once the police have come and addressed the problem, there is nothing to stop the party-goers from continuing to make noise.
4. Notify Planning Enforcement
In the case of unexpected construction work, if you live in a conservation area or the work is taking place to a listed building, it could be halted by Camden’s planning enforcement team.
Camden’s planners are often remarkably efficient, especially compared to its other departments. Officers are typically sent out within a few hours of a complaint being made if the works are illegal. You can contact enforcement on 020 7974 4444 or the team leader, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Complaining to Camden Council
In some cases there is little choice but to complain directly to Camden Council about a noise nuisance, especially if it is a recurrent long term problem.
This can be an arduous task, ridden with minefields and dead ends. In late 2020 I wrote about my personal experience of complaining about a noise nuisance, with Camden taking three years to even work out where the noise was coming from. Throughout this time the noise nuisance was so severe that I was unable to use my own flat at times, and had to move away. Luckily though, this means I have learned a great deal about what you should and should not do to get a nuisance investigated properly.
The overarching principle is to treat Camden’s officers not as professionals, but as something closer to children.
Camden’s officers will easily take offence at anything untoward that you do or say, and subsequently react in childish and deeply immature ways. The key point of having any complaint at Camden investigated is to keep officers on your side at all times. As soon as you go against them, they will likely ignore you and go to great efforts to ensure your complaint isn’t investigated, as a sort-of childish revenge.
1. Don’t Ever Use Camden’s Website
Camden Council has a noise complaint website where you can make an account and log reports of noise nuisances. However this website is absolutely useless and in a number of complaints, investigations, and Freedom of Information requests over the past decade, it has been found that the majority of reports never actually get through to officers at all.
Using Camden’s website to make noise complaints is therefore a complete waste of time and should never be done.
Be aware that Camden’s officers have a prewritten email response which will tell you to use the website. Simply ignore this and don’t use it.
2. Don’t Ever Get Angry
Camden’s officers are generally chronically incompetent and it is highly likely that their negligent actions will make you frustrated and angry. Officers will forget to respond to emails, claim they did things they didn’t do, lie to you about what can and cannot be done, and treat you bureaucratically and with disrespect.
However if you are anything but polite to Camden’s officers they will immediately begin to ignore your emails and pretend you don’t exist. There is absolutely no oversight in Camden Council and individual officers can largely behave in any way they like with no consequences. Making complaints is ineffective because managers always protect their employees.
A further downside is that once your noise complaint is assigned to a single officer, it is almost impossible to get it transferred to a different officer, even if you make a complaint about them. You therefore have to be extremely friendly and accommodating towards whoever gets your complaint, even if they behave unacceptably.
Officers will also be far more likely to go out of their way to get your complaint resolved if you are understanding and friendly towards them. Due to Camden’s chronic incompetence, most officers are accustomed to residents being continually enraged, with a key difficulty of working for Camden being having to manage angry residents. If you refrain from become angry towards officers, they are much more likely to prioritise your case.
Keep in mind that despite often being incompetent, Camden’s officers are just normal people trying to get their job done. Most are decent people who find themselves in a system which is broken beyond repair, but try to do their job as best they can regardless. Most also are given such a huge amount of work that it is very difficult to keep up, and very easy to overlook emails. You therefore have to treat officers with some lenience and compassion for them to engage properly with you.
3. Don’t ‘Scattergun’
A favourite phrase of all Camden officers is ‘scattergun’. This is used to refer to the approach adopted by frustrated residents who send complaints out to dozens of different officers, departments, and councillors in an effort to get noticed and have a complaint expedited.
This doesn’t really work, and just makes everyone you email feel uncomfortable, and more importantly, each individual assumes that someone else on that mailing list is going to respond, meaning that in the end, nobody responds.
Once you adopt this approach, you start down a path which usually doesn’t end well. The officer dealing with your case will be quizzed by managers and councillors, but without any real progress being made. In the end that officer will feel embarrassed and resentful towards you personally, and you will still have to deal with that one officer. That officer will likely exact their revenge for the embarrassing ordeal by refusing to deal with your case.
1. Do Get a Councillor on Side
One of the most important aspects of getting things done in Camden is to have a local ward councillor on your side. This is because Camden’s officers find it difficult to turn down the requests of councillors, but can easily ignore the requests of residents. Having a ward councillor advocate your cause or prompt officers to respond is extremely valuable.
Note that most wards have three councillors. You will usually end up having a single councillor take up the case; this is because councillors informally split different responsibilities between them, so only one will deal with noise. It is worth emailing all three in the first instance to see who responds, but make sure to follow up every few days if you don’t get a response.
Again, be understanding and lenient with councillors! If you don’t get a response it is likely because they are drowning in emails from their thousands of constituents. If you don’t get a reply within a few days, the first assumption should not be that you were ignored, but that they missed the email, it went into junk, or they intended to respond but forgot. Most councillors, even ones known for their ignorance, will respond to you.
Sometimes getting councillors on board isn’t possible – a few councillors are too ignorant to reply, others won’t for political reasons if you’re on a pressure group. It is still possible to have success without their help.
2. Do Talk to your Officer on the Phone
When you make a complaint, you will be assigned an Environmental Health Officer to deal with the noise nuisance from the Environmental Health Department.
Usually they respond with a templated email, asking you to call a specific number at specific times to get an officer to visit your property. They also ask you to report nuisances online, but as mentioned, you shouldn’t do this, because their website doesn’t work.
If this is likely to be a long term noise complaint, you need to establish a friendly rapport with your officer to get them on side. The only way you can do this is to speak to them on the phone about your complaint or meet them in person. Officers tend to receive a great deal of correspondence by email, most of it hostile, meaning they usually respond with templated emails without a second thought. Talking to, or ideally meeting an officer ensures a greater chance of success.
An important point about meeting or talking to officers is that you also get a better understanding of their own limitations, and their own willingness and enthusiasm to resolve your case. Due to the strange bureaucratic culture of Camden Council much of this motivation is lost through written correspondence, only adding to residents’ frustrations. Officers are also not entirely open by email because everything they say is on record – on the phone they are more open about Camden’s chronic problems, and how they need to be navigated.
Some officers can be a bit coy about talking on the phone, but simply say that you don’t usually use your emails and you should be able to get through.
3. Do Call their Emergency Response Number
Environmental Health provide an emergency response number for you call when the noise is occurring. After calling the number, an officer will be sent to your address as soon as possible.
Camden claim that the only way a noise nuisance can be investigated is if one of their own officers witnesses the noise. It is therefore absolutely vital that you call their number to get an officer out when the noise is happening. Without this, your complaint will hit a dead end.
This is usually the most difficult part of having a complaint investigated. Sometimes response times can be as little as 30 minutes, other times as long as 3 hours. Actually managing to get an officer to witness the noise can sometimes be almost impossible, especially if it is intermittent or in a strange location. This is what I found with my fairly unusual noise nuisance, which caused officers a 3 year delay in locating the nuisance address.
If it is proving difficult to ‘catch’ the noise nuisance maker, then you can arrange for a pre-booked visit at a certain time to take place. This can be very useful if the noise happens at the same time every day.
Remember that co-operation is key here. You have to recognise that officers have their own limitations and will have dozens of complaints to witness every day. If the problem is proving difficult to solve, you have to try to find a way to work with your officer and find a solution.
This is where the local police force can also be useful. If you are finding it difficult to locate the nuisance address, an officer can gain entry to locate the source.
4. Do Get them to Send a Letter
Environmental Health also send out a letter if you know the address of the person making the noise.
It is worth getting an officer to send out a letter to warn the nuisance maker that their actions may have legal repercussions, although this will not lead to any actual action until the noise has been witnessed by an officer.
Once you make a complaint, either by calling 020 7974 4444 or sending an email to email@example.com, you will be informed about how to get an officer out to witness the noise when it’s occurring.
Camden will not progress your complaint unless an officer witnesses the noise themselves. It is therefore vital that you get an officer out.
Be aware that response times can vary – sometimes they are very brief and other times can be many hours. It may take a few attempts before you actually catch the nuisance maker.
Following this, Environmental Health will decide whether the nuisance can be enforced against, and if so may secure a legal order against the cause of the nuisance.
The legal order will mean that if the noise continues, the individual causing the noise will be fined increasing amounts every time the nuisance occurs.
Bear in mind that also this seems like a fairly simple process, in reality there are often hitches and technicalities along the way, many of which Camden’s officers are simply too incompetent to deal with. The exact address of the offender may not be known, or the nuisance may be so intermittent that it is challenging to get an officer out in time.
Proceedings will demand the utmost patience and lenience towards Camden’s officers. This is why developing a good rapport with your officer from an early stage is so important. Catching a noise offender should be a cooperative process rather than a combative one, or you may face extreme delays and obstruction, as I did.