The “mechanization” of living in modern conditions (if the word may be borrowed from its military context), particularly in large centres of population, has resulted in the perpetuation of noise to such an extent that many see in it a menace to the public health. It is perhaps one of the drawbacks of the progress of civilization. It is certain that noise of particular pitch or repetitive character can cause nervous exhaustion and perhaps nervous disease of functional nature. Loss of sleep, interference with concentration and other contributions to loss of human efficiency may in some cases be justifiably attributed to noise.
*The Corporation of Edinburgh has taken the matter up in the interests of public health, but so far has been unable to persuade Parliament to grant powers of suppression. The difficulty seems to lie in defining unreasonable or unnecessary noise, preventable noise, noise capable of mitigation and noise dangerous to health. Should action be confined to noise arising from any trade, occupation or business? That would leave untouched the roysterers who make night hideous. Street drilling by day or by night is harrowing, but it is “necessary” noise and would also be immune from legislation.
Private individuals in “Westminster have been successful in obtaining injunctions at common law for disturbance caused by the music of powerful organs in cinemas in the neighbourhood of their dwellings.
The Public Health Committee considered the question of noise on a reference from the Metropolitan Boroughs’ Standing Joint Committee. The former was reminded that noise had been recognized for some years as something which should be controlled by law inasmuch that the City Council and the London County Council had made by-laws in instances such as music near hospitals, street shouting, &c., &c., &c.
Complaints are received in the department from time to time as to noise arising from machinery in buildings near dwellings, collection and delivery of milk churns and many other causes. Usually the only remedy available for the complainant is to move for an injunction.
At the present time the local authority has no powers to deal with noise other than that regulated by particular by-law. The trend of opinion is, however, moving towards some measures for the control or prohibition of noise, and the time may not be far distant when the legislature may give effect to what appears to be a growing public desire.
* Since the above was written, Edinburgh has obtained powers from Parliament in an Act which contains a section devoted to the prohibition of noise as a nuisance. It is hoped that similar powers may be requested and granted for London.