A new app which will allow residents to report incidents of ‘noise nuisance’ will be launched next month by Mid and East Antrim Council.
The local government authority will be the first council in Northern Ireland to utilise the software, which will anyone with a smart phone to record and upload a snapshot of the noise nuisance they are experiencing.
During this month’s meeting of the Operational Committee, members heard that the technology will be introduced in September by the council’s Regulatory Services.
“The Noise App can be used to record noise nuisance every time there is a problem, thus assisting in expediting the complaint investigation,” a members’ report read.
“The technology permits the Investigating Officer to share recordings with both NIHE and PSNI, whom are our partners in tackling anti-social behaviour, and can be utilised to bolster evidence should enforcement action need to be taken.”
The app will include inbuilt safeguards which will provide verification of the recording’s authenticity, along with a facility to ‘block’ those who may use the app maliciously, the report added.
It will be formally launched in conjunction with community group representatives, NIHE and the Neighbourhood Policing Teams.
In 2015/16, Regulatory Services within the council received 371 noise complaints, 300 (81 percent) of which were in relation to domestic noise type complaints.
“When an Environmental Health Officer is asked to look into a noise complaint, the crucial point on which the officer must make a judgement is whether noise amounting to a statutory nuisance exists; a complainant’s word alone is not sufficient,” the report continued.
“There is no fixed level of noise which constitutes a statutory nuisance; individual circumstances differ and each case needs to be judged on its own merits.
“The officer has to take into account not only the loudness of the interference but also such factors as when, how often and for how long the noise occurs.
“Therefore it is important that evidence is logged over time to demonstrate whether or not a noise nuisance exists. Currently evidence is logged through complainant log sheets and noise monitoring equipment. Given the number of complaints received many complainants can experience delays in noise monitoring equipment becoming available.”
Users will be able to download the free app onto their smartphone, set up an account and within minutes be able to make a recording, which can be sent through instantly to the service.
Speaking at the Operational Committee meeting, Councillor Mark McKinty raised concerns over the potential financial implications of the app. “I would welcome the opportunity for members of the public to be able to report information to the council; however, I would query the cost and the need for this app,” he said.
Cllr McKinty also suggested the possibility of incorporating the app’s functions into an existing piece of software, such as Reportall, which allows users to log incidents relating to various aspects of public life.
Responding, director of Operations Philip Thompson reiterated that the app would be free for users to download. “This is not something that we are developing but something we can utilise,” he added. “It will be beneficial both to the council and to ratepayers.”