From Mr Michael Cooke

Sir: Paul Staines asks for a bit of tolerance and common sense when dealing with noisy parties (Letters, 15 December). This is a plea often made by Environmental Health Officers (EHOs), who are responsible for dealing with complaints about noisy neighbours.

The Government's proposals to introduce a system of fixed penalty fines to deal with noise nuisance have had a mixed reaction. Many people who have to suffer regular and interminable noise from anti-social neighbours welcome a measure that they believe may help them to enjoy some peaceful nights. EHOs are less enthusiastic, as the scheme has certain technical difficulties and will certainly not solve the problems in most cases.

The number of complaints about noisy neighbours has risen dramatically over the last 10 years. Before an EHO will take action, he or she has to ascertain that the noise constitutes a nuisance, ie that it is sufficiently loud and regular as to disturb sleep patterns and present a risk to health and well-being.

One-off parties do not necessarily constitute such a nuisance, and it is unlikely that an EHO would contemplate taking action in the case of the occasional loud party on New Year's Eve. There may well be occasions when a fixed penalty fine or confiscation of music systems may be appropriate to prevent abuse of people's right to peace and quiet. At the same time, everyone has the right to enjoy themselves. What is required is tolerance, common sense and neighbourliness on all sides.

Yours faithfully,

Michael Cooke

Chief Executive

Chartered Institute of

Environmental Health

London, SE1