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CITY MAPS HELP DRIVE FOR QUIET LIFE AS THREAT OF JAIL FOR NOISY NEIGHBOURS

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Every large city in Britain will have to produce a detailed map identifying 'noise hotspots' under a European Union...
Every large city in Britain will have to produce a detailed map identifying 'noise hotspots' under a European Union initiative to tackle noise pollution, reported The Sunday Telegraph (p11). The newspaper reproduces the colour-coded map for Birmingham, the first UK city to produce a detailed model of how noise mapping could work.

Its giant map - a year in the making - is set to become the blueprint for a system to be used across Britain, and possibly Europe, detailing levels of noise pollution. Under a European Commission directive, EU cities with populations of more than 250,000 will have to draft noise maps within the next four to five years, eventually using harmonised techniques. These will be used to identify areas of unacceptable levels and to assist action plans to reduce noise by imposing limits on sources such as traffic.

They will also help in the creation of 'tranquil areas' where a minimum noise level - yet to be set - will have to be enforced. At present, there is no consensus on what constitutes unacceptable noise, but a European working group is expected to announce limits within the next four years.

The Birmingham map, completed last week with the help of German consultants, will be studied by both the European Commission and the DETR, which will oversee noise mapping in Britain.

Birmingham environmental health officer Gavin Tringham said: 'The map will help us reduce unacceptably high levels in the noisiest areas and maintain quiet areas where people can go to escape'.

Data on poverty, health and deprivation in the city will be fed into the map, which has been created using a computer program, to investigate possible links to noise. The map will also enable the council to test a range of noise abatement policies - such as traffic reduction or lower speed limits - simply by altering details fed into the computer.

John Hinton, the city's noise pollution team manager and co-chairman of the EC working group on noise mapping, said the findings could lead to the construction of more courtyard-style developments which can create pockets of tranquility between buildings.

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