Planning and Noise

Expert bodies launch consultation on noise and planning

Over recent years, we have seen the introduction of the Noise Policy Statement for England, as well as substantial changes in national planning policy. But these developments have not been accompanied by detailed technical acoustic advice.

The lack of detailed guidance can lead to the inconsistent application of policy that may in turn result in unsatisfactory development and affect quality of life.

To fill that gap and facilitate efficient and consistent decision-making in the development control process, the Institute of Acoustics, the Association of Noise Consultants and the CIEH have joined to produce Professional Practice Guidance (ProPG) focussing on noise sensitive development.

Following two regional workshops and formal open consultation on a draft text, the working group are now considering all the comments received before finalising the guidance for publication.

The National Planning Policy Framework (March 2012) states that planning policies and decisions should aim to:

  • avoid noise from giving rise to significant adverse impacts on health and quality of life as a result of new development;
  • mitigate and reduce to a minimum other adverse impacts on health and quality of life arising from noise from new development, including through the use of conditions;
  • recognise that development will often create some noise and existing businesses wanting to develop in continuance of their business should not have unreasonable restrictions put on them because of changes in nearby land uses since they were established
  • identify and protect areas of tranquillity which have remained relatively undisturbed by noise and are prized for their recreational and amenity value for this reason.

Effective land use planning is important to help prevent or mitigate potential noise impacts. The express inclusion of noise in the National Planning Policy Framework means that it will be a material consideration in local planning decisions. Design, including acoustic design, is another material consideration and a failure to reflect it may result in the refusal of development consent. Where noise may be an issue, a noise impact assessment may be required as an integral part of the process for making those decisions and should be sought at the earliest possible stage of the planning process.

By avoiding the location of noise sensitive uses near to noise-producing premises, noise problems can often be prevented. Where this is not possible, noise controls need to be incorporated into new noise-producing developments and mitigation measures may be prudent for new noise sensitive developments such as housing, schools, hospitals, nursing homes and places of worship.

It is an important function of the environmental health service to contribute to a local authority’s land use planning functions by providing professional and technical support and expert advice on noise, which may include:

  • drafting policies relating to noise for local development plans;
  • assessing the localised noise impacts of new development proposals by vetting planning applications and drafting appropriate planning conditions and informal guidance;
  • contributing to the decision making process by preparing or contributing to committee reports and attending committee meetings where necessary; and
  • providing technical input into the assessment of compliance with planning conditions relating to noise, and contributing to the planning enforcement process.

While a grant of planning consent cannot excuse any nuisance subsequently caused by the development, applicants for schemes which may give rise to noise issues are strongly advised to discuss their proposals with their local environmental health department at an early stage.

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