Birmingham City Council has developed state-of-the-art Sound Immission Contour Maps (SICMs) - colour coded maps of combined road, rail and aircraft noise - of the city. The noise maps have implications for local authorities for planning and transport and have been developed ahead of a potential EU Directive.
Mr Meacher said: 'Our National Noise Attitudes Survey showed that one in three people considered environmental noise spoiled their home life to some extent and one per cent said their home life was totally spoiled by noise.
'These are genuine concerns which we take very seriously and we need to take action to avoid increases in noise from transport and industry, which we call ambient noise, and wherever possible we must find ways to reduce existing noise levels to minimise the disturbance to people's lives.
Mr Meacher added that ways to strengthen legislation and controls and help local authorities combat noise were continually being sought and that the forthcoming Urban White Paper would provide an opportunity to focus on what could be done to improve quality of life in urban areas.
The Green Paper on Future European Noise Policy in 1996 showed around 20 per cent of the population - 12 million people in the UK - are exposed to ambient noise above which scientists and health experts consider unacceptable - where most people become annoyed, sleep is disturbed and adverse health effects are feared.
John Hinton, architect of the Birmingham Noise Maps and co-chair of the EC Working Group on Noise Mapping, said: 'This is just the first step in an exercise. The next step is to put this noise mapping information into a geographical information system
and determine the number of people in Birmingham who are living in houses exposed to various noise levels. Then we will be able to develop a noise reduction and controlled action plan to reduce this exposure.'
2. The Production of Noise Maps of the City of Birmingham was published by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) priced£17.00 and is also be on the DETR website - http://www.environment.detr.gov.uk/noise
3. Local authorities have had powers to deal with noise since the 19th Century. Since the Wilson Report in 1963, legislation to protect the local environment and controls to reduce the emissions from sources of noise have been put in place
4. National Noise Attitudes Survey in 1991 (currently being updated) also identified 28 per cent objected to noise from road traffic and 22 per cent to noise from neighbours. It found that road traffic noise was audible outside more than 90 per cent of homes
5. Measures already being undertaken to reduce noise at source and mitigate its effects include:
- maximum noise limits from engines and exhausts
- working to implement EU standard to limit tyre noise
- quieter road surfaces
- developing quieter aircraft
- regulation and control of aircraft operation near airports
- Working with the EC on developing noise standards for new
freight wagons and high speed intercity trains
- Voluntary agreement reached to reduce noise from freight train
wheels throughout Europe