APPENDIX J. For the consideration of the Health Committee (14/10/30).
L.M.S. RAILWAY SIDING—HARLEY ROAD. COMPLAINT OF NOISE AND DUST FROM MECHANICAL TIPPING APPARATUS.
MEMORANDUM BY THE MEDICAL OFFICER OF HEALTH.
(1) The site of operations and the complainants have been visited frequently since the 10th September, 1930, by the District Sanitary Inspector, on several occasions by the Chief Sanitary Inspector, while I myself have also visited.
(2) The mechanical tipping apparatus in question is in the Urban District of Acton and approximately 150 yards south of the nearest property in Harley Road.
(3) The complainants are residents in Harley Road and neighbourhood.
(4) The apparatus is used for filling the tenders of railway locomotives with coal. The process is as follows :— (a) A loaded coal waggon is put under a waterspray and the coal is sprayed until the water runs out of the floor of the waggon. (b) The waggon is pushed on to the weighbridge and weighed. (c) A lifting gear raises the waggon and part of the weighbridge to a height of about 40 feet. (d) At the top the waggon is tilted, the contents falling into a hopper. (e) The waggon is lowered. (f) The tenders of the engines are fed from the hopper.
(5) The noise complained of arises from the tilting of the waggon and the coal falling into the hopper.
(6) The dust complained of also arises from the same cause.
(7) There is no doubt that noise is associated with the operation as described. This noise is mainly caused by the coal being tilted from the waggon into the hopper. Comparatively little noise arises from the filling of the tenders from the hopper and as this latter operation takes place at a height of only about 10-12 feet, dust is not likely to reach the adjoining property in Harley Road as a building about 20 feet high intervenes.
(8) Neither the District Sanitary Inspector, the Chief Sanitary Inspector nor myself have been able to verify the complaint that dust blows from the apparatus towards the Harley Road area. No high winds, however, have been blowing from that direction on the days on which visits have been made, and in addition some of the days have been wet.
(9) Assuming, however, that the complaints both as to noise and as to dust are capable of legal proof, the question arises as to what powers the Council possess for dealing with two such nuisances.
(10) As to noise. The only power possessed by the Council is that given by Section 56 of the Middlesex County Council Act of 1930. To prove a noise under this Section, it is necessary to prove all of the following propositions :— (a) that the noise is either excessive or unreasonable or unnecessary ; (b) that the noise is injurious or dangerous to health, and (c) that the noise is capable of being prevented or mitigated, having due regard to all the circumstances of the case.
(11) It is a good defence that the best practicable means of preventing or mitigating the noise having regard to the cost, have been adopted. (N.B.—the provisions of Section 56 of the Middlesex County Council Act, 1930, do not apply to the carrying on of an undertaking authorised by an Act of Parliament or by an order confirmed by or having the force of an Act of Parliament).
Noise.—Increased business in certain trades necessitated night-work being carried on pending the extension of the respective premises. Occupiers of nearby houses complained of the noises from machinery and considered the Local Authority should be in a position to regulate the periods during which work should be done and the machinery run. Section 56, Middlesex County Council Act, 1930, reads as follows:—
“Noise Nuisance—56.—(1) A noise nuisance shall be liable to be dealt with in accordance with the provisions relating to nuisances of the Public Health Act, 1875: Provided that no complaint shall be made to a justice under section 105 of the said Act unless it is signed by not less than three householders or occupiers of premises within the hearing of the noise nuisance complained of. (2) For the purposes of this section a noise nuisance shall be deemed to exist where any person makes or continues or causes to be made or continued any excessive or unreasonable or unnecessary noise and where such noise— (a) is injurious or dangerous to health; and (b) is capable of being prevented or mitigated having due regard to all the circumstances of the case: Provided that if the noise is occasioned in the course of any trade, business or occupation it shall be a good defence that the best practicable means of preventing or mitigating it having regard to the cost have been adopted. (3) The provisions of this section shall not extend or apply to the carrying on of an undertaking authorised by Act of Parliament or by an Order confirmed by or having the force of an Act of Parliament.”
As the noises complained of were not “excessive or unreasonable or unnecessary” and the “best practicable means,” etc., had been adopted, no legal action could be taken. The firms in question, however, continued night shifts only as long as was necessary to fulfil their contracts and with the minimum of night staff working.
NOISE. I suppose there is no doubt that the nuisance of noise is detrimental to health — is positively harmful to the sensitive and nervous invalid. We know that the Anti-Noise League has a Committee sitting which is dealing with the social and scientific aspect of noise, with a view to early legislation. We shall all be anxious to see their final report. The unnecessary noises we are all suffering from are legion. Among them may be mentioned those due to inefficient silencers on sports cars and motor cycles—over these the police have some control, but only seldom exert it. The din outside offices produced by roller skating should certainly be prevented. The shrill screaming whistles of the fast trains passing through Wembley night and day cannot be so frequently necessary. The noise made by old, worn out lorries materially adds to the nuisance. Even the quiet of Sunday is seriously disturbed by the fearful noise overhead due almost entirely to civil aviation. It is quite time this received attention. We know how useful, perhaps necessary, is the pneumatic drill, but the noise produced is appalling! Some attempt should be made to mask or mitigate this, by boxing in or casing the immediate part operated with asbestos or rubber. Fortunately this nuisance only stays in one spot a short time.
Complaints of noise are increasing. During 1937, 83 observations were made.
“In noise we are faced with an environmental problem which has markedly increased in significance in recent years with the development of mechanised civilisation.
It must be recognised that individuals vary very much in their sensitiveness to noise, but there is a general consensus of opinion that the widespread use of recent inventions, particularly radio sets, by the public, the increase of motor traffic and modern methods of building and road construction, have led to an increase in noise which is intolerable to many. Such noise is calculated not only to handicap the performance of work but to destroy the amenities of home life, and by disturbing rest and sleep contribute to ill-health in the community. Various measures may be taken to ensure that standards of noise are not exceeded in flats or other premises. They require to take account of the noise made by traffic and industrial noises and that made in the building itself by neighbours. They comprise questions of technique building and internal planning, town planning, legislation and education.” (League of Nations, Bulletin of the Health Organisation, August, 1937).
There has been a large increase in the number of complaints received regarding noise. During 1938 no less than 518 visits were made. The majority of these complaints, naturally, are made by residents whose houses adjoin industrial zones. Whilst there must be some boundaries on which residential zones meet industrial zones, the difficulties are obvious where dwelling houses are in close proximity to factories. For example there are instances of factories on one side of a road, with residential dwellings immediately opposite. In other cases dwelling houses back on to factories, the gardens of the houses forming the only intervening space.
The industries which are responsible for complaint of noise in the Borough are not those usually classed as heavy industries. For example, noise was caused by the running of pumping machinery, while very considerable amelioration was obtained by enclosing that part of the factory where such machinery was installed by screens made of sound-absorbing material, and by the provision of double windows.
In other instances noise from running machinery has been reduced by the erection of wooden fences and by the occupiers of the factories keeping particular windows and doors of the factory closed during the hours of work.
In another case amelioration of the existing conditions has been achieved by the provision of efficient silencers on the air intake pipes attached to air compressor plant. Another noise nuisance has been overcome by the provision of new buildings, in which the engines are now running in special chambers partially partitioned by glass, the exhaust gases going into a specially constructed tunnel, lined with sound-absorbing material. The new arrangements have reduced the considerable noise to one now barely audible in the near vicinity.
These are typical examples of achievement possible with the assistance of the occupiers of the factories. The results have been obtained without the service of statutory notices or recourse to legal proceedings.
Section 106—Middlesex County Council (General Powers) Act, 1938, is now relevant to the subject of noise. The section is as follows:—
(1) A noise nuisance shall be liable to be dealt with as a statutory nuisance under the Act of 1936. Provided that no complaint shall be made to a justice under section 99 of the said Act unless it is signed by not less than three householders or occupiers of premises within hearing of the noise nuisance complained of.
(2) For the purpose of this section a noise nuisance shall be deemed to exist where any person makes or continues or causes to be made or continued any excessive or unreasonable or unnecessary noise and where such noise
(a) is injurious or dangerous to health; and
(b) is capable of being prevented or mitigated having due regard to all the circumstances of the case.
Provided that if the noise is occasioned in the course of any trade, business or occupation it shall be a good defence that the best practicable means within the meaning of the said Act of preventing or mitigating it have been adopted.
(3) Nothing contained in this section shall apply to a railway company the Transport Board or any statutory undertakers for the supply of water gas or electricity or their respective servants exercising statutory powers or to any mechanically propelled vessel on the Grand Union Canal.
(4) Nothing in this section shall affect the powers of the Council or the Council of a Borough to make byelaws under Section 249 of the Act of 1933.
(5) Section 56 (Noise nuisance) of the Act of 1930 is hereby repealed.
While factory owners, on their attention being drawn to the nuisance from their factories, have always been found to be willing to co-operate in an endeavour to secure reduction or elimination of the noise, the solution is not always easy, and considerable expenditure is often involved. The circumstances generally call for much technical knowledge of the inspectors, and tact and understanding are necessary throughout in dealing with this question.
It may be added that in making these inspections and observations regarding complaints of noise, no noise-measuring instruments have been used, the amount of noise being gauged by ear alone.