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There is still a lot to do, particularly about noisy neighbours, to ...
There is still a lot to do, particularly about noisy neighbours, to

make Britain a quieter place, Michael Meacher told a conference of

noise experts today.

The environment minister was speaking at the Chartered Institute for

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

during 2001.

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 .

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