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Clay pigeon shooting

Providing they have enough space to ensure that the shot and clay pigeons stay within their boundaries, people are entitled to shoot clays on their own land. They also have to ensure that the noise from the shooting does not cause a nuisance and whether it does will depend on the circumstances of each particular case.

The following guidance was originally drawn up in the early 1980's to provide guidance to clay pigeon shooting clubs operating at weekends. It is intended to strike a balance between enabling a lawful recreational activity to take place and protecting the environment of local residents. While there are some imperfections in the guidance, it is used as a basis for assessing the noise levels measured at a complainants premises.

Guidelines for controlling noise from clay pigeon shooting

1. Clay pigeon shooting is enjoyed by a growing number of participants and can provide income and employment in rural areas, but it is an inherently noisy sport that may annoy non-participants The objective of these guidelines is to minimise such annoyance whilst allowing the sport to be pursued in a reasonable and considerate manner. They apply to practice and tuition sessions, as well as competition, and provide guidance for other recreational activities involving firearms, such as 'war games'.

2. Surrey is a densely populated county where the countryside is heavily used for informal recreation. Therefore, there are very few areas, if any, where clay pigeon shooting is unlikely to disturb anyone. If such a location is found, the guidelines may be relaxed. Local consultation and liaison are important in conjunction with careful site selection and operation in general accord with the guidelines. Where an established site has been operating without causing complaint, or local agreement has been reached, there will normally be no need to require the pattern of use to be modified, unless external circumstances or the character of use alters significantly.

3. The guidelines cover the maximum noise exposure levels which would normally be acceptable, conditions towards an acceptable intensity of use at a shooting site, some supplementary advice and a summary of legal controls. However, compliance with these guidelines does not automatically mean that noise nuisance will not he adjudged to exist; nor will it be regarded as constituting a 'best practicable means' of defence under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Guideline noise values

4. Local topography can affect noise attenuation rates through channelling, reverberation and reflection, concentrating noise and giving rise to greater levels than would be expected in free field situations. It is considered, therefore, that a more appropriate approach to noise control would be to set noise limits for sensitive locations rather than simply to quote separation distances.

5. It is suggested that the following free-field peak noise exposure levels are desirable maxima and therefore should not be exceeded in the following situations:-

SituationFree-field peak noise exposure levels
NOISE SENSITIVE LOCATIONS (houses, including domestic gardens, libraries,churches, hospitals, schools) 6OdB(A) FAST

As a guide in terms of separation distance over flat farmland, the firing point should be at least 1,500 metres from a noise sensitive location. This distance may have to be increased directly in front of the shoot.

6. The higher second and third levels reflect the more temporary nature of any likely noise exposure in the situations envisaged. Both suggested peak values may well of course be some 20 to 30 dB(A) above pre-existing L90 background noise levels in more rural areas of Surrey on days without much wind.

7. Noise measurements with the IMPULSE meter setting may be used alongside dB(A) FAST meter readings. All measurements should be taken with the sound level meter at least 3.6m from any reflecting surface, and at a height of 1.2m above the ground.

8. Any prediction model should include the effects of a modest (2 m/s) positive wind. Particular attention should be paid to the potential effects of the prevailing wind at each location.

Advisory conditions

9. On Mondays to Saturdays shooting should only take place between the hours of 0930 and 1800 with a maximum event duration of four hours on any one day. No shooting should ever take place with the assistance of vehicle headlights.

10. Sunday is the most popular day for clay pigeon shooting, but it is also the most noise sensitive day of the week. Only three hour shooting sessions should ever be permitted on a Sunday. A session could either be in the morning or afternoon depending on local circumstances (for example on nearby church services). Sunday shooting sessions should not begin before 1000 hours and should always he over by 1700 hours.

11. On Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Christmas Day and Remembrance Sunday no shooting whatsoever should take place at any site.

12. Shooting at a particular location should only take place at a separation of at least 21 days. This is regardless of how many individual clubs intend separately using a given facility for clay pigeon shooting.

13. During a particular session no more than six firing stands should be operational at any one time. A limit, in the region of 2,000 shots per day, should be imposed on the total number of rounds to be fired on a particular day. Consideration may be given to permitting a higher figure for occasional special events. Where there is a concentration of shooting sites within a restricted area, their overall impact should be taken into account.

14. Only cartridges satisfying the 'best practicable means' concept incorporated in the Environmental Protection Act 1990 should be permitted when a shoot is within 2 km of noise sensitive premises.

15. At least 14 days before a first event is proposed at a particular location, notices should be posted on parish or village council notice hoards as well as in the immediate area of the shoot venue. Notices should give the name and telephone number of the secretary (or an equivalent contact) in the organising club. Copies of the notice should always be sent to the relevant Environmental Health Department(s).

16. At a shoot all associated public address system announcements should be strictly controlled (in terms of both volume and directivity) to the satisfaction of local Environmental Health Department(s).

Number of discharges

17. Two thousand shots per session are regularly experienced at Surrey clay pigeon shoots where 40 participants might typically discharge 50 shots each during the course of a session. This number of shots equates to 500 shots per hour on a typical weekday or Saturday. Clearly this intensity of shooting should never be exceeded on Sundays.

18. From experience with several shoots it appears that Leq (equivalent continuous sound level) values for the shooting period would fall approximately 14 dB(A) below the corresponding mean peak level in the area of principal guideline concern (ie 60 to dB(A) FAST) with the level of activity referred to in paragraph 17 above.

19. As an alternative control on the number of daily discharges it may be appropriate to specify a maximum Leq (4hr) level to be experienced at noise sensitive locations during a typical weekday or Saturday. The equivalent Leq (3hr) level may be applied for Sunday sessions.

20. A condition may be applied containing shooting activity to a level whereby the associated Leq (4 hr) at a noise sensitive location should not exceed the pre-existing Leq (4 hr) by more than 3dB(A) under similar meteorological conditions. Alternatively the L90 (4 hr) level could be used as the pre-existing level and a different excess suggested.

Supplementary advice

21. Clay pigeon shooting may cause less disturbance in winter with people being more likely to be indoors behind closed windows. Shooting sites where the noise is masked by continuous noise sources, such as a motorway, or an established shooting range, may result in less annoyance.

22. Barriers may help to reduce noise transmission, their effectiveness being dependent on height, length and position.

23. Gunfire can he distressing to animals, particularly during certain periods. Shoot organisers should bear this in mind and avoid sensitive locations or seasons.

24. At a shoot anyone whose role takes them regularly to within 15 to 20 metres of discharging guns must be provided with effective ear defenders; in order to prevent the certainty of hearing damage due to the impulsive noise peaks, organisers should strongly encourage the use of such equipment at appropriate times. The shoot organisers should always have available for loan ear defenders of an approved design (BS 6344) for those shoot participants who have none with them.

25. The conditions for vehicular access should be carefully assessed before selecting a site for clay pigeon shooting. Car parking on verges and general obstruction of roads, lanes, bridleways and footpaths should be avoided.

26. The regular build-up of lead from shot falling onto grazing land could lead to additional health problems in the longer term. The advice of the Local Water Authority and Environmental Health Department should always be sought by a landowner before permitting a club to use part of a farm for clay pigeon shooting.

Legal controls

27. The Environmental Protection Act 1990 provides for either a Local Authority or the owner/occupier of premises to abate and/or prevent recurrence of noise amounting to a nuisance under the terms of Sections 80 & 82 respectively. Furthermore, a Local Authority is empowered to act where satisfied noise amounting to nuisance is likely to occur, and it is a statutory requirement for Authorities to cause the areas over which they have jurisdiction to be inspected for the purpose of determining how such powers should be exercised.

28. The Town and Country Planning General Development Order 1988 permits temporary use of land (other than a building or curtilage of a building) for the purpose of Clay Pigeon Shooting on a maximum of 28 days in any calendar year. Should the use of land exceed 28 days, a planning permission from the Local Planning Authority under the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 is required.

29. The Local Authority may apply to the Secretary of State for an Article 4 Direction for the purpose of revoking or varying the permitted development rights contained within the Town and Country Planning General Development Order 1988, with respect to any area over which the Authority has jurisdiction.

30. Permanent works (such as the construction of barriers for controlling noise or the erection of other structures) require planning permission, and advice can be obtained from the District Council Planning Department in respect of the implications of the aforesaid legislation.

31. Quantitive limitations relating to the levels of noise emitted from a site may he applied in the form of conditions attached to any planning permission. (Similar conditions imposed as a result of statutory proceedings in respect of noise nuisance can also he applied).

32. Shoot organisers should be aware of their duties to employees and others under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, having specific regard to occupational noise and safe shooting practice.

33. The discharge of a firearm within 15.2m of the centre of a highway may constitute an offence under the Highways Act 1980.