Noise Manifesto launched by Noise Abatement Society and Rockwool calling for urgent planning reform to start ‘Quiet Revolution’ in building design

Business leaders back call for ‘better planning laws, not just less planning laws’ 

Manifesto urges Government to boost noise protection as part of National Planning Policy Framework Review

Brighton, 15 February 2013 – As the Government prepares to slash planning red tape and axe up to 70 per cent of the UK’s planning laws, in response to the Taylor Review, a new Noise Manifesto has been launched calling for the Government to boost noise protection in homes and other buildings as part of the new National Planning Policy Framework.

Launched by The Noise Abatement Society and Rockwool, the world’s largest stonewool insulation manufacturer, and based on views expressed at The Noise Summit by more than 100 property, construction and acoustic industry leaders, the Noise Manifesto urges the Government to create better planning laws, not ‘just’ less planning laws.

Divided into actions for the Government and the property industry, the Noise Manifesto calls for minimum national standards of noise protection in buildings and lays the ground-work for a new Quiet Homes Standard to identify quieter homes, commercial and public buildings in the future.

In the face of numerous academic studies and a World Health Organisation report showing the serious effects on health, impact on children’s educational achievement and damage to quality of life caused by excessive noise in the built environment, the Noise Manifesto sets out a 14 point plan to address the issue.

Key recommendations in the Noise Manifesto include:

Create a single, national standard for minimum acoustic protection in the design and construction of buildings as part of the National Planning Policy Framework review and The Code for Sustainable Homes

Empower local authorities to refuse planning permission for developments that are deemed to create a noise issue in the finished buildings, as part of the Localism agenda

Create tranquil spaces in new developments to allow residents to enjoy quiet areas

Zone developments to separate commercial and residential buildings

Strengthen planning guidelines around noise protection in schools

Introduce a Quiet Homes Standard to identify buildings which meet minimum acoustic protection levels

Use Green Deal and Eco funding to also improve acoustic insulation as well as boost thermal efficiency in buildings

Improve training for architects to include modules on acoustic design

The Noise Manifesto is being supported by leading industry experts including Professor Bridget Shield, President of the Institute of Acoustics and Gloria Elliott, chief executive of the Noise Abatement Society and Quiet Mark, and is based on the views expressed by those attending the Noise Abatement Society and Rockwool Noise Summit on 20th November 2012. Hosted by TV presenter and architect George Clarke, The Noise Summit provided a forum for leading figures in the architecture, construction, acoustic and property professions to discuss new ways to combat noise pollution in the UK’s built environment.

Thomas Heldgaard, managing director of Rockwool stated: “We urge the Government to consider these points during its review of the National Planning Policy Framework and as part of the Code for Sustainable Homes. Noise is a massive problem and for too long planning laws and guidelines have often ignored its impact and the destructive effect noise has on lives, health and education.

“While we appreciate the Taylor Report’s desire to make the planning process simpler, we call on the Government to consider improving noise protection as part of this NPPF review process – to fail to do so is a massive wasted opportunity which will see millions of people continue to have their lives blighted by excessive noise. While we support axing unnecessary red tape the focus should be on making planning laws better, not just cutting them.”

Lisa Lavia, managing director of the Noise Abatement Society stated: “Noisy homes are a major problem across the UK, with numerous studies linking noise pollution with health issues.

“As the Government is already reviewing planning guidelines, we urge ministers to give the UK adequate planning rules that protect people from noise and create a level playing field for the property industry. Cutting planning red-tape is fine but we have to ensure that the Planning Framework we are left with is fit for purpose – without better noise protection this simply isn’t the case. It’s time the Government started a quiet revolution.

A series of leading industry figures have backed the aims of the Noise Manifesto and added their support to the call for the Government to boost noise protection standards in buildings as part of the National Planning Policy Framework Review:

Professor Bridget Shield, President of the Institute of Acoustics said: “It is well known that noise has a detrimental impact on people’s health, wellbeing and performance. The Institute of Acoustics welcomes the Noise Abatement Society and Rockwool’s manifesto and hopes that it will encourage the government to recognise the importance of the prevention and control of noise, particularly in relation to current changes in planning policy and guidelines.

“Many of our members are involved in the study and measurement of noise and its effects, and in developing and implementing noise control measures.  We believe that noise should move up the political agenda and be recognised as being a key component of planning and building policies and the sustainability agenda.”

Gloria Elliott, Chief Executive, Noise Abatement Society and Quiet Mark says: “When uninvited, sound invades your home, whether it be low frequency or excessively loud, it’s an unacceptable invasion of private space and can seriously affect health, ability to concentrate and general enjoyment of life. Planning legislation should give everyone protection by providing robust rules on proper levels of noise insulation. Whilst reviewing the NPPF, Government has a golden opportunity to improve the effectiveness of building regulations by radically improving insulation standards and their enforcement across the UK.”

The Noise Manifesto

Overview

On the 20th November 2012, over 100 experts from the architecture, construction, acoustic and property professions gathered in London for The Noise Summit, sponsored by Rockwool and the Noise Abatement Society, to  provide a forum to discuss new ways to combat noise pollution in the UK’s built environment.

This Noise Manifesto builds on the views expressed by the industry leaders at this event and calls for the Government and property industry to develop a new approach to tackle noise pollution in communities.

The Noise Manifesto is rooted in a large body of academic and industry research, and work from organisations such as the World Health Organisation, which have identified noise as a key contributor to cardiac problems, stress, poor academic attainment, neighbourhood disputes and low productivity.

There were a wide range of ideas suggested by participants at The Noise Summit to counter noise pollution problems but the points made in this Manifesto are those that the majority felt most passionately about. This Noise Manifesto is a blueprint for change.

We would like the Government to consider these points during its review of the National Planning Policy Framework, which will aim to streamline planning laws, potentially resulting in up to 7,000 rules being dropped.

While we appreciate the desire to make the planning process simpler, we urge the Government to consider improving noise protection as part of this NPPF review process.

The Noise Abatement Society and Rockwool urge the Government and the property industry to enact these Noise Manifesto recommendations and build a quieter future for our communities.

Actions for Government

1. As part of the National Planning Policy Framework review, based on the findings of the Taylor Report, we urge the Government to strengthen building regulations relating to noise pollution to create a single, national standard for the design and construction of homes and to improve acoustic protection in buildings, following a review of standards in comparable northern European countries.

2. A new planning policy should be developed as part of the NPPF review to allow local authorities to refuse planning permission, under the Localism agenda, where noise in the completed development would be deemed to be excessive and cannot be cost effectively reduced.  New noise sensitive developments should not be created in places where occupants would be likely to resort to legal action against established economic activities which are otherwise acceptable.

3.    The Code for Sustainable Homes should be updated, with noise protection included as one of the measures for sustainable building design, reflecting the importance of quiet buildings to the health and wellbeing of the occupiers.

4.   Planning policy should enable and encourage local communities to create and protect tranquil spaces and green squares and empower planners to consider the availability of conveniently located tranquil spaces when granting planning permission for homes in noisy environments as part of the Localism and Big Society agenda.

5.   New National Planning Policy Framework guidelines should encourage the establishment of development zones, as part of the Code for Sustainable Homes, that create and maintain sufficient acoustic separation between residential and other noise sensitive uses, and noise generators (such as commercial and enterprise zones). This zoning should guide planning application considerations and allow residential and commercial (and other noise generating areas) to function successfully and cost effectively. Local authorities should be empowered to ensure that the economic, social and cultural benefits of land use mixing are secured without creating noise disturbance.

6.  Government policy should encourage local authorities to test innovative approaches to tackling intractable local noise and soundscape problems, such as in the White Nights project run by Brighton and Hove Council, including through targeted funding for pilot projects. Government should encourage and enable partnerships between private and third sector partners, and Government agencies, covering noise prevention and other beneficial outcomes such as crime prevention and enhancing the urban environment.

7.  The Government should establish a cross-sector, inter-disciplinary acoustic, academic and property industry task force to provide greater assistance to minimise the health effects of Low Frequency Noise, establish the impact this has on people and create a maximum exposure limit for householders. The task-force should be mandated to recommend changes to building regulations to protect residents in their homes from Low Frequency Noise.

8. The Government should strengthen building standards for schools to better address the impact of poor acoustics on educational attainment, building on the extensive research that has been conducted into this problem. These guidelines should set stricter minimum acoustic protection levels and lower maximum allowable noise levels for class rooms that should be followed by developers and architects when designing new schools, universities and colleges (and extensions to existing facilities) to create better learning environments.

9. A new Noise Panel including external experts, as well as civil servants from across Whitehall should be established to assist Government in finding cost effective solutions to improving noise insulation and addressing noise issues within the spirit of the Big Society.

1  The Government should examine whether a new funding programme, to tackle poor noise insulation, which creates acute distress leading to neighbour conflicts in parts of the UK’s existing housing stock, would be possible, in partnership with private sector funding and within the auspices of the ECO home improvement programme and the Code for Sustainable Homes. This would be highly complementary to the aims of the Green Deal and could be achieved at no additional cost using insulation that provides both acoustic and thermal properties.

Actions for the Property Industry

1.    A Quiet Homes Standard should be introduced as an industry standard to identify homes that meet certain levels of build and design quality, and new homes should be marketed with information showing the level of acoustic protection they provide. This can either be a stand-alone Quiet Homes Standard or an adaption of the Quiet Mark™. The industry should also explore additional ways to help homeowners identify the acoustic performance of buildings, through labelling and information schemes.

2.  Minimum standards should be agreed as best practice by the property industry for sound insulation between floors and partition walls in flat conversions within existing houses and large buildings as part of a Quiet Homes Standard. This should include the industry agreeing how to integrate certification within wider building regulation compliance to create a structural and acoustic Best Practice guidance for new builds.

3. Training and degrees in architecture should include a mandatory module on acoustics and noise, with acoustic design a key part of professional qualification. This should include modules looking at the creative use of acoustics and ways to design soundscapes to encourage architects to create aurally innovative and tranquil spaces within developments. Training needs to go beyond giving traditional technical tuition on dB levels to encompass a more creative way to design acoustic environments and inspire a new generation of architects.

4. Auralisation techniques should be incorporated into the design process for all major infrastructure and residential/commercial/educational developments, including the relevant outdoor spaces that would be affected by these, to ensure the acoustic environment of the finished building(s) will meet the new Quiet Homes Standard. This auralisation process should be used to increase consumer knowledge and understanding of noise levels and their impact on finished buildings.

A vision for change

This Noise Manifesto reflects the views expressed at The Noise Summit and the views of The Noise Abatement Society and Rockwool on the best ways to address the issue of urban noise, develop better buildings and design quiet spaces and acoustically innovative areas in the built environment.

Building design that neglects to create a good acoustic environment frequently results in noise pollution which impacts on other residents and users of the building. Noise pollution is more than just a nuisance; it adversely affects health and wellbeing, negatively impacts quality of life leading to increased stress and lower productivity and is a growing and insidious problem in the UK.

The steps outlined in this Noise Manifesto provide a blueprint for change, and a foundation to drive quieter communities and cut noise pollution in homes, offices, schools and public buildings.

We believe a fresh approach to noise is needed. We urge the Government, property industry and local authorities to take up the baton and enact these recommendations and ensure that the new National Planning Policy Framework and is not just more efficient and streamlined but also that it, and the Code for Sustainable Homes, address the critical issue of noise in buildings and communities and provide new guidance and minimum standards for noise protection in the UK.

Rockwool and the Noise Abatement Society will be hosting a second Noise Summit in 2013 to look at how the industry can create better urban soundscapes and address the health, educational and lifestyle issues that excess noise creates.

‘It is time to start a quiet revolution’.

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