UK Legislation regulates most types of noise emission – whether from transportation, industrial, renewable energy, workplace, domestic or leisure sources. The legislation applies at many different levels – for example there are legal controls on the amount of noise most types of machinery can generate, including road vehicles and aircraft, construction plant and even some types of gardening equipment, such as lawnmowers. Together, there is now a huge volume of noise legislation and guidance. Much of this legislation has been modified over the last decade in response to European Directives. This has also required considerable updates in recent years of British Standards in relation to Noise and Acoustics.
The UK government published a Noise Policy Statement for England in 2010. This commits the government in England to consider noise across all departments with the vision to “Promoting good health and a good quality of life trhough the effective management of noise within the context of Government policy on sustainable development.”
Subsequently, the UK Government revised much of its guidance on planning and noise. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was published in 2012 and is used as the guideline for current planning policy. Technical Guidance to the National Planning Policy Framework is now provided by a web site which provides a wide range of Planning Practice Guidance in the form of a ‘blog’ that can be readily updated, so care is needed to check for updates. (It is possible to subscribe to update notifications.)
There are also planning controls on the siting of noisy installations and also on the siting of noise-sensitive buildings, such as houses and schools. This means that when a new factory is planned, it must not cause undue noise at noise-sensitive premises, and also when new housing is planned, it must not be exposed to excessive noise.
New or improved roads are also subject to detailed noise assessment as set out in The Design Manual for Roads and Bridges, Volume 11, Section 3, Part 7 Noise and Vibration to ensure that they are planned and designed to take noise exposure into account. This work is complex and nowadays noise mapping is essential to the process.
Heavy investment is taking place to improve the UK railway network, with the introduction of faster trains providing a more frequent service. New rail links are also being planned or constructed, including the CrossRail link through Central London (now to be called the Elizabeth Line) and the High Speed Railway to the midlands and north of England.
Again, noise mapping is being used to assess the potential not only for noise from the operational railway, but also from construction sites. These can be particularly problematic, as much railway construction work has to be done in ‘engineering hours’, ie when train services stop for the night. The methodology for this has advanced rapidly in recent years, and major consultancies have relied on NoiseMap software and technical advice in producing advanced noise assessments.
When applying for planning permission for new housing, planning authorities require an assessment of the noise exposure, and again noise mapping is an ideal way of providing this information.
Equally, the noise exposure arising from new factories can easily be illustrated by noise maps.