The Air and Environmental Quality Unit (AEQ) is responsible for the issue of legislation and policy on noise control. An annual report is compiled by the unit collating the complaints received each year.

Why is noise an issue?

Noise is an inevitable consequence of a mature and vibrant society, but it is regarded by some to be an unwelcome feature of everyday life.  Noise is subjective and different people react to it in different ways. What can cause annoyance to some people may be barely noticeable to others. Noise can have the effect of causing people to feel annoyed simply because the noise is audible. As the noise level increases it can interrupt conversation, disturb sleep and, in extreme conditions, may affect the physical well being of those affected. 

Complaints and enforcement

Noise complaints and the enforcement of noise control legislation is a matter for environmental health departments of district councils. All complaints relating to noise should be addressed to the environmental health department of the relevant district council. You can find your district council on the local councils in Northern Ireland page of the nidirect website

Advice on noise nuisance

If you are affected by noise you can get some advice on the Noise nuisance and neighbour disputes page of the nidirect website.

For advice on noise legislation applicable in Northern Ireland and a glossary of noise terms, visit the following DOE pages:

Noise complaints report

The Air and Environmental Quality Unit prepares an annual report detailing the number and nature of complaints received by district councils across Northern Ireland each year. The report is based on data supplied by district councils, as these are the organisations legally empowered to deal with the vast majority of noise complaints.

The report is intended to inform central government, district councils, the general public and any other interested parties as to the number and nature of noise complaints received each year by district councils across Northern Ireland. The information in this report is an important indicator of the increasing public awareness of noise issues and the effectiveness of current noise controls.

The statistics provided by district councils enable the Department of the Environment to target policy development. It also allows councils to compare their noise statistics to those of neighbouring districts, to examine trends and to consider initiatives implemented by other district councils that have proved effective in increasing noise awareness or reducing noise itself.

A copy of the Noise Complaint Statistics Report is available on the following DOE page. Please contact the Air and Environmental Quality Unit should you wish to see a copy of any of the other reports.

Environmental Noise Directive

The EU Directive 2002/49/EC relating to assessment and management of environmental noise, commonly referred to as the Environmental Noise Directive (276KB) ("END"), was published in July 2002.

The aim of the END is to avoid, prevent or reduce on a prioritised basis the harmful effects, including annoyance, due to exposure to environmental noise. It focuses on the impact of such noise on individuals, complementing existing EU legislation, which sets standards for noise emissions from specific sources.

The three main actions that the END requires of Member States are to:

  • determine the noise exposure of the population through noise mapping
  • make information on environmental noise and its effects available to the public
  • establish Action Plans based on the mapping results

The END requires that noise mapping and action planning be completed every five years.

Noise maps

In compliance with END, for round one strategic noise maps for Northern Ireland have been produced estimating noise levels from the following sources:

  • major roads - roads with more than 6 million vehicle passages annually
  • major railways - railways with more than 60,000 train passages annually
  • major airports - airports with more than 50,000 aircraft movements annually
  • agglomerations - urban areas with greater than 250,000 inhabitants, taking into account the above sources and additionally other roads, railways, aircraft movements and industrial premises

Round 2 noise maps have been produced based on 2011 data for the following sources:

  • major roads - roads with more than 3 million vehicle passages annually
  • major railways - railways with more than 30,000 train passages annually
  • major airports - airports with more than 50,000 movements annually
  • agglomerations - urban areas with more than 100,000 inhabitants, taking into account the above sources and additionally, other roads, railways, aircraft movements and industrial premises

The round 1 and round 2 noise maps can be viewed on an interactive web app via the link below:

The round 1 and round 2 are displayed on the same screen for ease of comparison. The round 1 maps are always on the left of the screen and the round 2 maps on the right. A vertical line (swipe function) can be moved from side to side to display more or less of a map and allow comparison of the noise situation in the five years between the two rounds of mapping.

Please note that some of the pages can take a few moments to load depending on the internet connection speed and the computer’s technical specification. 

Competent Authroities

Based on the noise maps, the Competent Authorities must prepare action plans. The purpose of an Action Plan is to describe how designated Competent Authorities under the Environmental Noise Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 propose to deliver their obligations under the Environmental Noise Directive.

The round one noise action plans for roads, railways, industry and Belfast International Airport were approved and adopted by the Minister on 5 March 2010. The noise action plan for the City Airport was adopted by the Minister on 22 June 2010. These action plans have now been superseded by the round two action plans, which are available below.

To assist the Competent Authorities in implementing their round 1 action plans and in assessing their round 2 noise maps the Department had issued technical guidance to the Competent Authorities in 2013.

The second round of noise mapping (round 2) was undertaken in 2011/12. Based on the results of these maps, each Competent Authority must revise their Action Plan.

The round 1 and round 2 noise maps can be viewed on an interactive web app

The round 1 and round 2 are displayed on the same screen for ease of comparison. The round 1 maps are always on the left of the screen and the round 2 maps on the right. A vertical line (swipe function) can be moved from side to side to display more or less of a map and allow comparison of the noise situation in the five years between the two rounds of mapping.

Please note that some of the pages can take a few moments to load depending on the internet connection speed and the computer’s technical specification.

Action plans

The Department of the Environment is the Competent Authority for industrial noise and has prepared its 2013 Action Plan based on the results of the revised noise maps. This was adopted by the Minister for the Environment on 9 July 2013. A copy of the action plan can be downloaded at the following link:

The Minister for the Environment adopted the round two Noise Action Plans for roads and railways and approved the Belfast International Airport and George Best Belfast City Airport plans on 13 January 2014. Copies of these Action Plans can be found below.

The round one and two noise maps are available to view on the interactive map viewer. Noise sources can be viewed individually or collectively as a consolidated noise map using a variety of noise metrics. See the glossary of noise terms for an explanation of these noise metrics.

Quiet area policy

The END also requires Member States to ‘preserve environmental noise quality where it is good’ through the identification and protection of designated Quiet Areas within agglomerations (urban areas with a minimum population density). The END does not contain a prescriptive definition of what constitutes a Quiet Area. It is for each Member State to develop its own approach to the identification and protection of such areas. 

The Department has developed its own approach to the identification and designation of Quiet Areas. This is set out in the policy guidance on the identification, designation and management of quiet areas (September 2016).

This guidance lists three quiet areas that were designated by the Minister on 20 September 2016 and explains how these areas are protected. The three areas are:

1. Conor Park/Strictlands Glen, Bangor West;     

2. Bashfordlands, Carrickfergus; and      

3. Carnmoney Hill – Upper, Newtownabbey

The Department has also launched a further consultation on the designation of Lagan Meadows as a Quiet Area. This is a four week consultation which will close at 5pm on Wednesday 19 October 2016.

Copies of the relevant documents are included below.

Lagan meadows as a quiet area

Back to top