Couple receive apology over ‘loud beeping’ at waste facility

Neighbours of a waste transfer facility bothered by “loud beeping and crashing sounds” outside permitted work hours have received an apology.

Birmingham Council House.
Birmingham Council House.

Birmingham City Council has been rapped by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman after waste contractors Veolia worked at the site past 6.30pm on Sundays.

A couple who live less than 500 metres from the site – referred to as Mr and Mrs X in a report – complained the noise affects their sleep.

It also means they can’t open the windows – which is necessary for managing Mr X’s health conditions, according to the ombudsman’s report.

The couple were concerned about the noise throughout the week, including “loud beeping and crashing sounds during the day and at night”.

Birmingham City Council investigated the problem following a complaint in 2018, and Veolia identified the noise bothering the residents as “sounding like” the reversing alarms of its vehicles.

The council found the noise “did not happen regularly enough to be a statutory nuisance” in 2019.

Investigating the couple’s concerns, the watchdog did not find fault with the council’s decision that the noise did not constitute a statutory nuisance.

But the site is subject to a permit from the Environment Agency which says the hours of operation will be 24 hours a day Monday to Friday and 5.30am to 6.30pm on Saturday and Sunday.

In response to the ombudsman’s enquiries, the council said the site currently operates from 8am to 10pm on Sundays, “with minimal loading after [8pm]”.

The report states Mr X “also reports activity on weekends after 6.30pm”.

The investigator found fault with the council and stated in the report: “[…] The Ombudsman expects the Council to hold itself to a high standard and to follow requirements, regardless of whether the Environment Agency enforces them. Allowing its contractor to work outside permitted hours is fault.

“This means Mr and Mrs X are exposed to noise at times when they would not be, were Veolia to meet the requirements of the permit.

“Mr X has health conditions for which his doctor recommends keeping his home well ventilated.

“Because of the noise, Mr and Mrs X say they cannot keep their windows open to air their home. This is an injustice to Mr and Mrs X.”

The ombudsman has asked the council to apologise to Mr and Mrs X and pay them £500 “in recognition of the impact on their amenity of Veolia working outside the hours allowed”.

The council has also been told to “require Veolia to adhere to the hours allowed by the permit”.

A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: "We apologise to the residents affected in this case and will be complying with the recommendations in the report and doing everything we can to ensure a similar situation does not occur again in the future."

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