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GOVERNMENT MOVES TO DROWN OUT NOISY NEIGHBOURS

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Too much noise making home life a misery could be a thing of the past after the government today announced plans to...
Too much noise making home life a misery could be a thing of the past after the government today announced plans to improve soundproofing in new or newly converted properties.

More than two thirds of all complaints received by local environmental health officers relate to some form of domestic noise - that's twice the number generated by disturbance from business and leisure activities, construction work, vehicles and street equipment put together.

That is why, as part of an overall strategy to improve quality of life, the government is working with industry to tackle the noise issue at the building control stage. Proposals for tough new rules requiring builders to test new properties and conversions to ensure they are adequately insulated against sound, were announced today by minister Chris Leslie. The minister, whose responsibilities include building regulations, was responding to a Parliamentary Question from Anthony Wright, MP for Great Yarmouth.

But the construction industry would get a chance to prove that their own preferred system 'Robust Standard Details' for separating walls and floors, could work, he said: 'Part E of the Building Regulations sets standards for the sound insulation between new homes. I propose to publish amendments to Part E of the Regulations and the supporting documents in the autumn of this year. There will be a requirement in

the regulations for testing the sound insulation of a sample of new homes on each site.

'The requirement for sound insulation testing will apply to houses, flats, hostel and hotel accommodation, whether purpose built or formed by conversion of other types of building. For new hostel and hotel types of accommodation, and houses, flats, hostel and hotel accommodation formed by conversion of other types of building, I anticipate that the requirement will come into force on 1 July 2003.

For new houses and flats only, I anticipate that it will come into force on 1 January 2004.

'The reason for this later date is that I have asked the House Builders Federation to develop Robust Standard Details for the sound insulation of separating walls and floors for use in new houses and flats. These Robust Standard Details must provide consistently good performance, and so will not need routine testing.

'Officials and the Building Regulations Advisory Committee will assess whether the House Builders Federation has achieved this objective. If satisfied that this scheme might work successfully, then I will put the proposals out to public consultation. If this does not raise any unforeseen issues, I would intend to amend the Regulations to allow Robust Standard Details to be used as an alternative to testing. Otherwise, I anticipate that testing will be introduced on 1 January 2004.

'Mindful of the need not to overburden business with unnecessary administration, we want to give the construction industry a chance to prove that their preferred system will work. However, we are not prepared to compromise on consumer issues. If Robust Standard Details do not prove effective, testing will be introduced.'

'The consultation on Part E also included a proposal to transfer the protection of new housing from external noise from the Town and Country Planning System to the Building Regulations system. We have decided not to proceed with the proposal as part of this amendment. However, we are continuing to explore whether we should pursue this at a later date.

Notes

1. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) reports that the number of complaints about domestic noise is currently running at over 5,000 per million of population. See the CIEH website at www.cieh.org for full details of their latest annual survey of noise enforcement activity by councils in England and Wales.

2. The proposals come under Part E of the Building Regulations and were the subject of wide-ranging public consultation last year. The draft consultation document can be seen on the office of the deputy prime minister (ODPM) website.

3. They will cover both newly built and newly converted homes - including hostel and hotel accommodation.

4. The response to the consultation showed that some sections of the building industry would prefer to develop robust standard details making testing of sound insulation for a sample of new homes on each site unnecessary.

5. This announcement has been made ahead of publication of the full amendment of Part E to give the House Builders Federation time to gear up for the changes. Working with ODPM officials, the Federation will develop robust standard details to present to the Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC) for a view on whether they are a reasonable alternative to testing.

6. The consultation draft also included proposals to:

- Bring hostel and hotel accommodation within the scope of the new regulations

for the first time

- Improve sound insulation between rooms within a home

- Control reverberation in the common parts of flats

- Regulate acoustic conditions in schools.

7. Plans to use building regulations to protect householders in new

homes against external noise will not be brought in as part of this

amendment. This responsibility remains with the local planning

authority.

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