exercise which will help develop a strategy to tackle ambient noise -
noise which disturbs people living near airports, railways, major
roads, factories and other transport and industrial sites.
The three-month consultation exercise follows the commitment in the
rural white paper to develop an ambient noise strategy. It recognises
the need to develop an integrated and targeted approach to noise at
local and national level. It will give special consideration to areas
which have traditionally enjoyed a tranquil environment, found mainly
in rural areas.
The government envisages a three-phase approach:
- Gathering information on the ambient noise climate in the country.
In simple terms, identifying the numbers of people affected by
different levels of noise, their locations and the source of that
noise - a process known as noise mapping.
- Establishing methods which the government might use to assess the
effects of noise - particularly regarding people's quality of life.
Special consideration will be given to the identification and
preservation of 'tranquil environments'.
Identifying the potential techniques to either reduce background
noise or, where appropriate, to ensure noise levels do not increase.
- Research into rigorous cost-benefit analysis of potential
- prioritising alternatives identified in Phase One and discussion of
costs and benefits, time-scales and co-ordination with other
- seeking agreement on the necessary policies to move towards the
National Ambient Noise Strategy. The consultation will be an
opportunity to gather information about neighbour noise, though
this has been tackled by a variety of previous legislation and will
not form a central part of the strategy.
It will also help to prepare for a European Union directive on the
assessment and management of environmental noise, expected to be
agreed next year.
The government has already committed£13m to begin development of
detailed maps of noise across England. This continues work which saw
Birmingham become the first city to produce detailed noise maps two
Noise mapping for international and regional airports in England has
been carried out, both routinely and according to the requirements of
planning applications, for many years. The DTLR annually commissions
daytime noise contours for Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports,
which are regulated under s.78 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982.
Elsewhere, airports themselves generally take responsibility for
contouring, on a voluntarity basis.
Mr Meacher said: 'Despite the significant steps which have been taken
to address the levels of noise from individual vehicles and other
sources, including very substantial reductions in noise exposure at
the busiest airports, there is evidence that the levels of noise to
which people are exposed in their local communities are not getting
significantly better. As part of the government's commitment to
improving people's quality of life, I am pleased that we are able to
set in train this important initiative.
'The gathering of information about noise will identify how many
people are affected, to what extent, and where they live. We will
need to improve our understanding of how different levels of noise
affect people's quality of life and well-being. Extensive mapping is
a huge task, and we don't expect the first stage to be completed
until 2004. At the same time, we must develop the techniques
available to improve the situation where it is bad, or preserve it
where it is good. Economic analysis and prioritisation can then
enable us to agree on the policies necessary for action.'
1) The Rural White paper 'Our countryside the future - a fair deal
for rural England' (November 2000), is available on the DEFRA website. The draft proposals for
the directive relating to the assessment and management of
environmental noise are available on the European Commission's
2) The types of noise that are experienced can be classified into
some fairly broad categories: occupational noise (experienced at
work); neighbour or neighbourhood noise (caused by people in or
around their homes); and ambient noise (sometimes called
'environmental noise,' generated mainly by transport and industry).
3) The problems caused by the first two types of noise have been
addressed by government action. Health and safety legislation
addresses occupational noise. Neighbour noise is tackled by a
combination of specific legislation which provides local authorities
with powers and duties which enable them to deal with 'noisy
4) Ambient noise has been addressed by a combination of reducing the
level of noise generated by individual vehicles, aircraft etc,
traffic management schemes, and addressing noise at the planning
stages of new noise generating or noise sensitive developments
(planning authorities must have regard to the DTLR planning guidance
note, PPG 24 (Planning and Noise)). Such action has considerably
reduced the output of noise from individual sources but often failed
to reduce the overall ambient noise because of other factors, such as
the growth in the number of vehicles on our roads.
5) The ambient noise strategy consultation document is not related in
substance or timing to the Hatton European Court of Human Rights
ruling or the Heathrow Terminal Five announcement.
6) It is anticipated that results of the consultation will be
available by early summer.