The NAS Blog

15 February 2013 – DCLG Consultation on the Review of Government Planning Practice Guidance

While the NAS believes that there is a need for up to date guidance on noise we also advise that such guidance includes provision for and/or takes into account the following recommendations:

A. The strengthening of 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.

B. Allowance for local authorities to refuse planning permission 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.

C. 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.

D. 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.

E. 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.

F.Government policy should encourage local authorities and third sector partners to test innovative approaches to tackling intractable local noise and soundscape problems, such as in the White Night West Street Story project designed and run jointly by the Noise Abatement Society and Brighton & Hove City Council; including through targeted funding for pilot projects covering noise prevention and other beneficial outcomes such as crime prevention and enhancing the urban environment.

G. The Government should establish a cross-sector, inter-disciplinary acoustic, academic, NGO 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 updates to building regulations to protect residents in their homes from unnecessary noise disturbance.

H. 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.

I. The Government should introduce 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, 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 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.

Click here to read the full consultation response

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11 January 2013 – Consultation response to the Health Protection Agency workplan on noise and health

NAS’ detailed comments focus on the individual objectives of section 7. Examining gaps and options for HPA work. The Noise Abatement Society welcomes the opportunity to comment on this consultation, and the commitment of the Health Protection Agency to stepping up to the responsibility for developing a programme of work to address the impact of neighbourhood and environmental noise on public health.

Click here to read the full consultation response

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Brighton & Hove and NAS are Sounding Brighton – “Exploring practical approaches towards better soundscapes”

On 18-19 June Brighton & Hove City Council, the EU COST Action TD0804 on “Soundscapes of European Cities and Landscapes” and the Noise Abatement Society hosted the second international soundscapes conference, ‘Sounding Brighton,’ exploring practical approaches towards better soundscapes, with workshops, installations, and a soundwalk.

Following on from the success of last year’s conference, Sounding Brighton brought together world environmental sound experts, in its home town of Brighton & Hove. The primary focus of the event was on soundscape issues relating to health and quality of life.

The event once again provided the opportunity to raise awareness and promote communication on soundscapes among the general public and facilitated exchange between international soundscape experts involved in the EU COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology), Eurocities and the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) networks; and policy makers, academics, scientists and local people. It also explored new ways of listening and assessing local sounds, as well as innovative methods for tackling noise through local town planning.

Professor Jian Kang, of Sheffield University and Chair of the EU COST Action TD0804 on “Soundscapes of European Cities and Landscapes” said: “Reducing sound levels, the focus of EU environmental noise policy, does not necessarily lead to improved quality of life in urban/rural areas, and a new multidisciplinary approach is essential. Soundscape research represents this paradigm shift as it involves not only physical measurements but also the co-operation of human/social sciences (e.g. psychology, sociology, architecture, anthropology, medicine).”

Brighton & Hove City Council leader Jason Kitcat said: “The Soundscapes project is unique in the way it brings together experts in their field and local people to explore the different aspects of sound, how it relates to people and how we can improve quality of life in the city.

“The conference informed the council’s work on finding practical ways of improving public spaces, managing noise where it is having a negative impact and designing environments with soundscapes that can actually improve people’s wellbeing.”

Lisa Lavia, Managing Director of the NAS said: “Soundscape can be best described as the acoustic environment as perceived and understood by people, in context and regards sound as an important environmental resource to be managed and cared for. Sounding Brighton is an ambitious project led by Brighton & Hove City Council and the NAS, which will ultimately benefit the city and serve to showcase how innovative and forward thinking can lead to healthy, pleasant soundscapes.”

The workshop presentations included analysis of Sounding Brighton sonic installations staged during White Night, the city’s all night arts and cultural festival, on 29 October 2011, including a ground breaking pilot experiment using the soundscape to help enhance public safety and improve crowd behaviour on West Street. It involved Martyn Ware of the Illustrious Company and founder of the Human League and Heaven 17; psychobiologist Dr Harry Witchel of Brighton and Sussex Medical School, and film and broadcast specialists Driftwood Productions.

Also included was a review of a survey of local residents on their experience of local sounds in a city-wide online Sounding Brighton Survey conducted last year in conjunction with the University of Stockholm. The gathered international experts helped to propose a range of soundscape options for the council’s improvement of areas such as Brighton station, the seafront, foreshore, historic terraces, squares, lanes, parks and gardens.

To enable the public to better understand and interact with some of the concepts being presented to the city, a ‘Sounding Brighton’ free-entry poster and video installation also opened to the public on Monday 18th June for one week before being on display in other European cities.

For more information email soundscape@noise-abatement.org

 

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NAS Response on the Consultation on the Code of Practice on Noise from Ice-Cream Van Chimes,1982

Today we have lodged our response to Defra to their Consultation on the Code of Practice on Noise from Ice-Cream Van Chimes, Etc., 1982.

While the Society welcomed the opportunity to respond to the consultation, we were extremely surprised and concerned not to have our views sought during the pre-consultation process described in section 2.13 of the Consultation Document. As the UK’s only registered Charity who’s sole remit is to find solutions to noise pollution problems, we were at a loss to understand how a reasonable review of “noise stakeholders” could not have included the NAS.

We also expressed our concern that Paragraph 2.13 of the Consultation Document is prejudicial, referring to “initial discussions with noise stakeholders that suggest that they are not overly concerned by a relaxation of the Code”. Government should not prejudge the positions of stakeholders on the basis of cursory discussions in which people may be reserving their positions in the context of Prime Ministerial comments which may themselves be considered prejudicial.

We also fail to understand how a consultation on adding more noise into sensitive environments benefits anyone or is aligned with any of the principles, aims or objectives of the Government’s Noise Policy Statement for England.

The NAS would like to go on record to clearly state that it does not support the view of other “noise stakeholders”, as stated in Section 2.13 of the Consultation Document, of being “not overly concerned by the relaxation of the Code”. The exact opposite is true.

The use of chimes in public streets is a form of aggressive selling and noise pollution that would not be countenanced for other industries. It abuses and seeks to bypass the relationship between children and their parents/guardians, exploiting the ‘pester power’ of children.

It is especially irresponsible to encourage such selling practices of ‘fast food’ and sugary treats for children. Parents may be concerned at child obesity, encouraging healthy eating and may want to protect their children from aggressive selling and the attendant peer pressure from other children. People can usually get ice cream from plenty of other outlets, including convenience shops and supermarkets, which do not use inane noise pollution to force their attention on citizens who have a basic human right to peace and quiet in their own homes.

As has been well documented in numerous studies, noise can cause annoyance and fatigue, interfere with communication and sleep, reduce efficiency and damage hearing. Long undisputed by practitioners and underpinned by the World Health Organisation in its report Burden of disease from environmental noise, quantification of healthy life years lost in Europe (World Health Organization 2011, www.euro.who.int), “the health impacts of noise are a growing concern among both the general public and policy-makers in Europe”.

The WHO report presents a summary of “synthesized reviews of evidence on the relationship between environmental noise and specific health effects, including cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, sleep disturbance and tinnitus”.

It shows that “with conservative assumptions applied to the calculation methods, estimated DALYs lost from environmental noise were 61 000 years for ischaemic heart disease, 45 000 years for cognitive impairment of children, 903 000 years for sleep disturbance, 22 000 years for tinnitus and 587 000 years for annoyance in the European Union Member States and other western European countries”.

Callers to the NAS’ National Noise Helpline give a human voice to these findings with their appeals for help heard on a daily basis:

‘Ever since we moved in my life has been hell. I don’t want to go home sometimes but there’s nowhere else to go.’

‘I am a prisoner in my own home because of noise.’

‘I can no longer tolerate the noise. I have not slept properly in weeks.’

It is not unusual for highly distressed callers to the Helpline to cry on the phone.

It is against this backdrop of our own experience, those of the callers to our helpline and the considerable evidence as to the adverse health effects of noise pollution, that it is NAS’ strong view that given the many disturbances that residents are already required to put up with in the built environment, there is no justifiable reason to encourage unnecessary noise disturbance in order to encourage unhealthy eating practices amongst the young and the attendant health risks this will engender later in life.

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Supporting Noise Action Week

We’re supporting Noise Action Week which started on Monday, and thought you might like to join the quiet revolution and win a peaceful summer with Quiet Mark, the NAS mark of approval for quiet machines and appliances.

There is £8000 worth of luxury quiet products to be won this month including the ultimate luxurious weekend Spa-break for two at the exquisite new Corinthia Hotel London in heart of the capital.

Win a quiet kitchen with the latest premium Swiss dishwasher from V-ZUG, and washing machines from Panasonic.

Win a quiet garden with a leaf blower spring cleaning kit from STIHL that won’t disturb the neighbours.

If that all sounds like too much hard work, why not check out the next generation Automower Robotic Lawnmower from Husqvarna? It does the hard work for you – quietly.

And to round off your perfectly peaceful weekend, we have the latest Sennheiser NoiseGuard headphones or escape the stress altogether with 20th Century Fox DVDs of 2011 Palme d’Or winner Tree of Life starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn.

To take part visit our Facebook - Twitter - Quiet Mark Website

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