make Britain a quieter place, Michael Meacher told a conference of
noise experts today.
Environmental Health in London, where he announced the results of the
outcome of three major pieces of Defra research on how noise is
changing in the UK, what noises people see as problems and what can
be done to minimise them.
Among the findings of the research, which included a survey of more
than 5,000 people, were:
- 21% of respondents reported that noise spoilt their home life to
some extent, with 8% of respondents reporting that their home life
was spoilt either 'quite a lot' or 'totally'.
- 84% of respondents heard road traffic noise and 40% were bothered,
annoyed or disturbed to some extent.
- 28% of respondents reported that road traffic noise at their homes
had got worse in the last five years; this should be considered
alongside the trends in noise level and noise exposure found in the
National Noise Incidence Study 00/01.
- 81% of respondents heard noise from neighbours and/or other people
nearby and 37% were bothered, annoyed or disturbed to some extent.
- the proportion of respondents who reported being adversely
affected by noise from neighbours has increased from 21% to 26% over
the last 10 years, whilst for all other categories of environmental
noise the proportion adversely affected has remained unchanged.
- only a small proportion of respondents who were bothered by noise
from neighbours complained to the environmental health department of
the local authority, which means that noise complaint statistics may
greatly underestimate the extent of community dissatisfaction.
Mr Meacher said:
'The general findings from this latest research are encouraging in
that overall outdoor noise levels remained almost constant over the
past decade. But we must not be complacent: people's perception does
seem to be that noise - especially from neighbours - has got worse in
some respects. We will continue to try and find ways to address
particular problems created by noise.
'With that in mind we have also carried out a review of European
legislation on noise and I welcome the findings of this initial
study. It shows that most countries have a broadly similar framework
to the UK, but it has identified some interesting enforcement
measures, that we want to consider in more detail.
'Noise problems can not be solved just be research, though - everyone
has to play their part. It's a question of simple consideration for
'In this respect, I'd encourage everyone to get involved in this
Wednesday's Noise Action Day, when over 200 local authorities across
the UK will be promoting practical solutions to common noise
1. The Building Research Establishment (BRE) has been undertaking two
pieces of research, the Noise Incidence Study (NIS) and Noise
attitudes Survey (NAS), following up identical surveys to those
carried out by them on behalf of the Department in 1990 and 1991. At
the same time Defra, as part of an ongoing commitment to ensure UK
legislation provides the most effective possible framework to control
noise nuisance, has carried out a review of European legislation and
practices relating to neighbour and neighbourhood noise. The aim of
this study was to examine how other EU member states legislate and
act on neighbour and neighbourhood noise, in order to identify good
practice for possible consideration in the UK.
2. The Noise Attitudes Survey (NAS)This research project was
undertaken on behalf of Defra and the devolved administrations of
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The survey design involved two
parallel population samples and two different noise attitude
questionnaires. One of the questionnaires had been used previously in
England and Wales during 1991, allowing the investigation of changes
in attitudes to noise over the last 10 years. The other was broadly
similar, but incorporated developments in the understanding of
questionnaire design over the last decade.
The key findings from this research should be considered in the
following context: 69% of respondents reported general satisfaction
with their noise environment. 57% of respondents reported that noise
did not at all spoil their home life. Noise was ranked 9th in a list
of 12 environmental problems.
3.The Noise Incidence Study (NIS) NIS began in 1990 when BRE carried
out a national study of environmental noise levels for the Department
of the Environment. The study generated objective estimates of the
pattern of the noise exposure of the population of England and Wales,
based on 24-hour measurements outside 1,000 dwellings. During the
year 2000, BRE conducted a similar study for the DEFRA and the
devolved administrations, which involved new measurements and has
produced new estimates of the pattern of noise exposure. The study
was extended to include measurements in Scotland and Northern Ireland
Changes in outdoor noise level and noise exposure between 1990 and
2000 are small in magnitude and trends in these changes have been
subtle, with different indicators showing different changes.
- Typical outdoor sound levels as measured by the two indicators
most commonly used in the UK during the day-time have decreased
between 1990 and 2000 although there is an indication of a slight
worsening of background levels at night.
4. The review of European legislation on noise showed that while
systems for managing neighbour and neighbourhood noise vary
comparatively little across the EU, differences arose in enforcement
and local circumstances. In Scandinavian countries, high standards of
thermal insulation and noise insulation may partly account for an
apparent lower level of concern with neighbour noise.
The Review identified three areas in particular that seemed to
warrant consideration when planning noise policy in the UK for the
i:Integration of local authority efforts - the Amsterdam example
appears to offer several benefits.
ii: Mediation - mediation in Norway is cited as a model service,
achieving high levels of success for its users.
iii: Education - further research is suggested into the effectiveness
of education programmes, particularly in schools.
5. The Noise Forum is a group of civil servants, noise professionals
and interested groups to discuss noise matters and advise on noise.
It was set up in 1993.
6. Noise Action Day (Wednesday 22 May) is co-ordinated by the NSCA
(National Society for Clean Air and Environmental Production). It is
supported by the UK Government and the Devolved Administrations in
Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. More information here .