UCL News


Surge in noise complaints in London during the first lockdown

27 May 2021

Noise complaints in London increased by nearly 50% during the first lockdown in Spring 2020 compared with the same period in 2019, finds a report by UCL researchers.

Working from home

Complaints about neighbourhood noise – mainly from residents – and construction increased the most, at 36% and 50% respectively. Areas with higher unemployment rates, more residents with no qualifications and lower house prices saw the biggest rise in complaints.

Between the 27th March and 31st May 2020 there were 25,740 complaints, compared with 17,446 in the same period in 2019. Haringey showed the biggest year-on-year increase of 175%, followed by Barking and Dagenham at 104% and Hounslow and Bexley at 84%. Barnet was the only borough to report a decrease of nearly 21%.

Researcher Andrew Mitchell (UCL Institute for Environmental Design & Engineering – IEDE) said: “We knew there was this decrease in noise levels and we were expecting to see a corresponding decrease in complaints, but instead we saw this marked increase. That was pretty surprising to have the disconnect between noise and noise complaints. The majority of these complaints are residential and not due to transport.”

Westminster was the borough with the most complaints overall, which remained unchanged, followed by Islington. In general there was a bigger increase in complaints in lower socioeconomic areas.

The researchers examined how noise complaints changed during the first lockdown both locally and at city scale, and how urban factors including housing, demographics, transport and traffic noise might have influenced them.

The researchers compared 22 boroughs (out of 32 in total) which responded to freedom of information requests, finding that in 15 of the 21 that reported an increase, this rise was “significant”.

In general, environmental noise levels decreased due to the lack of human activity in public spaces and an overall reduction in traffic. London experienced an average reduction of 5.4dB across 11 sampled locations.

However the team conclude that the increase in people working from home and carrying out homeschooling led to an increase in sensitivity to neighbourhood noise.

The authors hope the study can help the government allocate resources more effectively and achieve a better urban environment.



Media contact

Kate Corry

Tel: +44 (0)20 3108 6995

Email: k.corry [at] ucl.ac.uk