What can I do about the noisy restaurant air con outside of my flat?

My new flat is near a noisy air con unit that keeps me awake at night and I didn’t notice when viewing – can I do anything about it?

  • What steps can be taken to reduce the noise from a neighbouring air con unit?
  • We take a look at whether the noise levels can be reduced or eliminated

I have just bought a flat above a shop in my village and there is a big air conditioning unit on the roof of the restaurant next door.

It is noisy and keeps me awake at night, especially now in the summer, when I have my bedroom window open. 

I didn’t hear it on the viewings, perhaps because I visited when it wasn’t switched on. Is there anything I can do about it? AS

Noisy neighbourL A loud air conditioning unit may be breaking the planning permissions set out (stock image)

MailOnline Property expert Myra Butterworth said: It is important to do your research before buying a property – that can include viewings and scoping out an area at different hours of the day. 

But there will often be some things that slip through the net – and this seems like one of them.

It doesn’t mean that you have to give up on trying to have the noise reduced. It is worth continuing to do research to find out the answers to questions such as how long the air conditioning has been there.

The answers to these questions may reveal that the unit is in breach of planning permissions – indeed if this was even granted at all. And if this is the case, it can be reported and, ultimately, stopped.

Martin Gaine, a chartered town planner, replies: From a planning perspective, the first thing to establish is whether the air conditioning unit has planning permission. 

If it does, check exactly what was proposed when the shop made its application so that you can work out whether the restaurant owner carried out the development as approved.

Also check whether the approval of planning permission was subject to any conditions. 

When permission is granted for these kinds of units, it is usually on condition that any noise produced does not exceed a certain number of decibels, that the unit is fitted with some kind of noise muffling system and/or that it is only operated during specified hours.

You can look up planning applications by navigating to your local council’s website and searching the planning database by address or postcode. Contact the planning team for help if you have any difficulty.

If the unit does not have planning permission, you need to establish how long it has been in place. 

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If it has been there more than four years – and has not been altered or replaced in that time -, it is likely that it is now too late to take planning enforcement action against it.

However, if it has planning permission but is operating in breach of a planning condition – for example, it is exceeding noise limits set out in the planning approval -, that breach only becomes lawful after 10 years, giving the council’s planning enforcement team a little more time to take action.

Although you have just moved in to your flat, you can work out how long the unit has been there by asking around your new neighbours.

If the unit does not have planning permission or does have permission but is breaching its conditions, and if it is not yet lawful though the passage of time, you should ask your local council’s planning enforcement team to investigate. 

Complaints to planning enforcement are anonymous, so your neighbour will not be told that it came from you.

Planning aside, the council’s environmental health team may also be able to help. 

Excessive noise from a neighbouring property can be considered a statutory nuisance. 

If an environmental health officer determines that the noise is unreasonable and interferes with your enjoyment of your home, a noise abatement noise may be served on the owner/operator of the restaurant, requiring them to discontinue or in some way limit or moderate the noise.

· Martin Gaine is a chartered town planner and author of ‘How to Get Planning Permission – An Insider’s Secrets’

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