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ASHP noise complaints from my neighbour – what can I do?

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(@jamespa)
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Posted by: @chickenbig

Does PD/planning permission apply to heat pumps fitted inside the house (for instance for integrated water cylinders and heat pumps)? I'm reminded of the Graham Hendra article suggesting that heat pumps be installed inside a shed

 

The short answer is no, at least if by inside you mean inside the dwelling, unless it materially affects the exterior appearance.

Section 55 of tcpa 1990 states:

(2)The following operations or uses of land shall not be taken for the purposes of this Act to involve development of the land—

(a)the carrying out for the maintenance, improvement or other alteration of any building of works which—

(i)affect only the interior of the building, or

(ii)do not materially affect the external appearance of the building,

and are not works for making good war damage or works begun after 5th December 1968 for the alteration of a building by providing additional space in it underground;

 

However an internal hp would still be subject to rules on noise nuisance if it made a noise externally, just not the requirement for planning consent.

 

This post was modified 8 months ago by JamesPa

   
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(@chickenbig)
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Posted by: @jamespa

However an internal hp would still be subject to rules on noise nuisance if it made a noise externally, just not the requirement for planning consent.

"That's not a heat pump, it is a circular gas boiler; the R32 gets re-used for about 15 years; it requires forced ventilation to prevent technical issues."

 

For planning permission as well as noise nuisance it appears that inventing a separate category to permit heat pump installation was a mistake, or given developments in technology is now a mistake.

 

   
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(@jamespa)
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Posted by: @ericdo

Posted by: @jamespa

The issue however remains that EHOs can issue enforcement notices without reference to the courts, and the burden lies with the responder to comply or appeal.

That is my interpretation too

Posted by: @jamespa

I wonder if OPs LPA have some objective criteria which they would reveal if pressed?

Mostly waffle. You've seen what they put in the comms 🙁

I am personally far from convinced that your EHO has a case, and the fact that they prefer to rely on planning to do something rather than actually taking enforcement action may suggest that they also are not as confident as they purport to be. 

To be a nuisance a matter has to either be a danger to health or cause an unreasonable and substantial interference in the use and enjoyment of a person's property.  Your EHO measured the noise in the room not actually used as a bedroom to be less than the BS 'desirable' level of bedroom noise.  So what substantial interference with enjoyment is it actually causing?  Perhaps your neighbours use the room for meditation and absolute silence is necessary, but Im not sure even that would qualify as nuisance is judged against what the 'reasonable person' would find harms enjoyment, not someone particularly sensitive.  

If I understand your posts correctly, you appear to be at or below the levels in the British Standard, the level set in Permitted Development (even though you don't meet the PD rules). the level recommended by the Institute of Acoustics/Institute of Environmental Health in their note on heat pumps, and the level which would be tolerable for a gas or oil flue.  Would a reasonable judge really find that you were causing 'an unreasonable and substantial interference in the use and enjoyment of a person's property'?  If a reasonable coherent argument were made in your defence I struggle to believe they would.  I guess the claimant might argue that there was an alternative location available, but you presumably had reasons for choosing the location you did and so could presumably show that the alternative location results in a technical/cost compromise which, given that you are below all the reference levels, it would not be reasonable to insist you to make (you are also entitled to enjoy your property!)

Of course you are still guilty in respect of lack of planning consent and there is no defence there, so the merits/demerits of the EH argument are currently a bit academic in your case.  However its nevertheless important to the more general case. 

I await the answer to the question I have posed to my EHO - "What objective criteria do you use to assess whether a complaint of noise emitted by to an essential service such as heating (whether oil, gas or ASHP) merits enforcement action.". If I get anything coherent in response I will post it here for critique!  

 

 

This post was modified 8 months ago by JamesPa

   
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(@jamespa)
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Posted by: @chickenbig

Posted by: @jamespa

However an internal hp would still be subject to rules on noise nuisance if it made a noise externally, just not the requirement for planning consent.

"That's not a heat pump, it is a circular gas boiler; the R32 gets re-used for about 15 years; it requires forced ventilation to prevent technical issues."

 

For planning permission as well as noise nuisance it appears that inventing a separate category to permit heat pump installation was a mistake, or given developments in technology is now a mistake.

 

The PD rules for oil/gas flues specifically state flues, and a heat pump is capable of materially affecting the external appearance, so I suppose it was (sadly) inevitable that planning consent rules needed to be technology specific. 

Regarding noise nuisance under environmental health law, I don't think there is currently anything specific about heat pumps, unless there is case law which does not pop up in the several google searches I have done (I haven't yet found any case law on domestic gas/oil flues either). 

The problem, as I see it, is that they are 'different' and thus give people the 'opportunity' to complain (particularly as they are frequently installed by woke, lefty environmentalists, not true red blooded Englishmen).  Local Authorities are obliged by statute to investigate noise complaints, so are making things up on the fly.  With the passage of time the newness will go away and I guess local authorities will more readily dismiss complaints about heat pumps, and/or at least one case will go to appeal (if only to a magistrate, although it would be better if it reached a higher court) and the case law will start to be established.  However that could easily take a decade or more.  During the interim, we are all subject to the vagaries and prejudices of our EHO unless the government specifically legislates (which I guess it will be reluctant to do since nuisance law is founded in the common law of tort and overriding that is a big step!).

My local councillor tells me that in his experience noise investigations take years, and are frequently inconclusive.  I strongly suspect that many EHOs use threats and other means to attempt to coerce people into abating the alleged nuisance, whether or not it would actually be classed as a nuisance, and do this because they fear that an abatement notice might not survive appeal.  In one way that approach makes sense, but not if you happen to have a neighbour who is particularly awkward!

 


   
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@jamespa

Just out of interest, what are the rules relating to Air Conditioning units?


   
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 robl
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I installed a gshp myself, partly because it completely avoided all this noise stuff as it's effectively silent - it's basically a regular fridge compressor inside an insulated box, as it doesn't need airflow, so quieter than a fridge.  

Next door meanwhile have been busy extending and renovating, which means from dawn to dusk for the last 9 months there's that horrific intermittent Nyyaaaa - Nyaaaa noise that builders make.  Now that's a noise nuisance.   🤔

 


   
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(@jamespa)
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@derek-m Aircon units have no special rules, so either they are an ashp used solely for heating in which case pd may apply, or they are like any other development work and require express consent.

 

That's how it is in planning law, however to benefit from pd an ashp needs to be installed by an MCS installer to MCS standards as well as meeting the noise criterion.  I'm not sure if MCS rules can be stretched to encompass air to air or not.  As to whether you will find an MCS installer who will install A2A that's potentially a further hurdle.  Others may know this part of the puzzle.

If the answer to the above is no, then it's yet another reason why MCS design and installation standards should have no place in planning law (as if there weren't already enough reasons!)

This post was modified 8 months ago 2 times by JamesPa

   
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 robl
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I know of several people who have had A2A installed by a contractor - there was no planning or MCS involved, the contractor is f-gas qualified, and just cracks on.  Perhaps if there's a complaint, then things might turn ugly ?  The A2A units I've seen are small single head ones, and pretty quiet - quieter than a gas boiler outside I'd say.


   
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Posted by: @jamespa

@derek-m Aircon units have no special rules, so either they are an ashp used solely for heating in which case pd may apply, or they are like any other development work and require express consent.

 

That's how it is in planning law, however to benefit from pd an ashp needs to be installed by an MCS installer to MCS standards as well as meeting the noise criterion.  I'm not sure if MCS rules can be stretched to encompass air to air or not.  As to whether you will find an MCS installer who will install A2A that's potentially a further hurdle.  Others may know this part of the puzzle.

If the answer to the above is no, then it's yet another reason why MCS design and installation standards should have no place in planning law (as if there weren't already enough reasons!)

My understanding is that an MCS accredited installer is required for A2W to be able to claim the BUS grant. I believe that you can install a mono system yourself, since the refrigerant gas is pre-loaded, but of course you cannot then claim the BUS grant.

A2A are excluded from the BUS scheme so can be installed by any AC Engineer, or by anyone if the unit does not use an 'F' type gas.

 


   
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(@derek-m)
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Posted by: @robl

I know of several people who have had A2A installed by a contractor - there was no planning or MCS involved, the contractor is f-gas qualified, and just cracks on.  Perhaps if there's a complaint, then things might turn ugly ?  The A2A units I've seen are small single head ones, and pretty quiet - quieter than a gas boiler outside I'd say.

I installed our own A2A ASHP and I would deem the outside unit to be quieter the indoor fan coil unit.

 


   
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(@jamespa)
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Posted by: @derek-m

Posted by: @jamespa

@derek-m Aircon units have no special rules, so either they are an ashp used solely for heating in which case pd may apply, or they are like any other development work and require express consent.

 

That's how it is in planning law, however to benefit from pd an ashp needs to be installed by an MCS installer to MCS standards as well as meeting the noise criterion.  I'm not sure if MCS rules can be stretched to encompass air to air or not.  As to whether you will find an MCS installer who will install A2A that's potentially a further hurdle.  Others may know this part of the puzzle.

If the answer to the above is no, then it's yet another reason why MCS design and installation standards should have no place in planning law (as if there weren't already enough reasons!)

My understanding is that an MCS accredited installer is required for A2W to be able to claim the BUS grant. I believe that you can install a mono system yourself, since the refrigerant gas is pre-loaded, but of course you cannot then claim the BUS grant.

A2A are excluded from the BUS scheme so can be installed by any AC Engineer, or by anyone if the unit does not use an 'F' type gas.

 

That's true, but doesn't circumvent the requirement for MCS accreditation in order to benefit from permitted development.  It's written into the general permitted development order 2015 and mcs-020

Of course, like all planning matters, you can just do it and, so long as nobody complains, irs unlikely that enforcement action will be taken.  This applies equally to A2W.

 


   
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(@jamespa)
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I promised to post feedback from my local authority on the criteria for statutory noise nuisance.  It's wooly, but does at least give a list of considerations.  I had a bit of tooing and fro-ing to get to this and I don't think I will do much better if I go back again.

So here goes

 

I asked:

 

Clearly I can't expect you to comment on an individual installation, however there must be some objective criteria which you apply to decide whether a complaint about a piece of equipment of this nature (whether it be an ASHP or other similarly necessary piece of domestic equipment) meets the threshold required to justify enforcement action.  It is this/these objective criteria that I need to understand in order to assess my own proposed installation.  For example you might refer to the table in BS8233 (Table 4 "Indoor ambient noise levels for dwellings" which sets out desirable maximum noise levels in domestic situations).  Then you might consider that, if these levels are not exceeded in the premises of the complainant (if necessary applying an adjustment for tonality/intermittency) then there is (other than in exceptional circumstances) no valid claim of nuisance, whereas if these levels are exceeded (and provided of course that the reason that they are exceeded is the external cause about which the complaint is received, not other noise sources) then there is, or may well be, a valid claim.  Alternatively you may refer to other standards or use other criteria.

So my question thus amounts to 'when a complaint is received in relation to a noise such as that emitted from domestic heating equipment (ASHP, Oil boiler flue, Gas boiler flue) or other 'essential' domestic equipment which emits external noise for lengthy periods of time, what criteria are used (and how are they applied) to assess whether a nuisance is occurring or not?'.

For the avoidance of doubt I understand that, ultimately, the definition of statutory nuisance is a matter for the Courts, and I am not asking you to provide legal advice,  What I am asking you is to provide the criteria/threshold levels thatEHDCuses to determine whether or not enforcement action by the Council is justified, in situations such as that to which I refer.

 

My local authority answered:

 

For the noise to be considered a statutory nuisance it must do one of the following:

  • unreasonably and substantially interfere with the use or enjoyment of a home or other premises
  • injure health or be likely to injure health

The factors considered in the determination of the existence of a statutory nuisance include:

  • Impact of the alleged noise nuisance
  • Location
  • Character of the area
  • Character of the source
  • Time of day
  • Frequency
  • Duration
  • How easy it is to avoid the effects of the activity – e.g. is it maintained, does it need to be used in the manner in which it is, etc.
  • Comparison standards such as BS 8233

 

There are no absolute values which determine whether something is considered a statutory nuisance or not, and the factors above are all that I would be able to provide at this stage.

Please rest assured that even if a complaint is received by Environmental Health and an investigation is initiated, the first port of call is to approach the subject of the complaint and advise them on how they can improve their specific situation.

 


   
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