Acoustic Design for Development post PPG24
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) came into force in March 2012 and represents the government’s commitment to sustainable development, through its intention to make the planning system more streamlined, localised and less restrictive. It aims to do this by reducing regulatory burdens and by placing sustainability at the heart of development process.
With regard to acoustic design and noise control, the NPPF provides a set of overarching aims, broadly reflecting those already contained in the Noise Policy Statement for England (NPSE). They are directed towards the avoidance of significant adverse impacts and reduction of other adverse impacts on health and quality of life; set within the context of the Government’s policy on sustainable development.
Now that the NPPF has been introduced previous Planning Policy Guidance on Noise (PPG24) has been withdrawn; creating a gap between policy aims and any technical guidance available by which the realisation of those aims can be achieved.
There is an emphasis within the new framework on local planning authorities to create local policy and guidance which reflects both the NPPF and the NPSE, whilst at the same time reflecting the needs and priorities of their communities.
The National Planning Policy Framework
The introduction to the National Planning Policy Framework states:
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) sets out the Governments planning policies for England and how these are expected to be applied, only to the extent that it is relevant, proportionate and necessary to do so. It provides a framework within which local people and their accountable councils can produce their own distinctive local and neighbourhood plans, which reflect the needs and priorities of their communities.
Under the heading of Conserving and Enhancing the Natural Environment, noise aims are detailed at s.123, which 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; and
- 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.
Further NPPF aims related to noise include:
The planning system should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment by: preventing both new and existing development from contributing to or being put at unacceptable risk from, or being adversely affected by unacceptable levels of soil, air, water or noise pollution or land instability;
Planning policies and decisions should encourage the effective use of land by re-using land that has been previously developed (brownfield land), provided that it is not of high environmental value. To prevent unacceptable risks from pollution and land instability, planning policies and decisions should ensure that new development is appropriate for its location. The effects (including cumulative effects) of pollution on health, the natural environment or general amenity, and the potential sensitivity of the area or proposed development to adverse effects from pollution, should be taken into account.
At the heart of the National Planning Policy Framework is a presumption in favour of sustainable development, which is seen as a golden thread running through both plan making and decision making. This will mean that local plans should meet objectively assessed needs with sufficient flexibility to adapt to rapid change, unless adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in this framework taken as a whole.
Where the development plan is absent, silent or relevant policies are out-of-date, permission should be granted unless any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in this framework taken as a whole
It can be seen that the NPPF is consistent with the move towards localism, placing local policy at the heart of noise management in new development.
Noise Policy Statement for England
NPPF affirms that National Policy Statements form part of the overall framework of national planning policy, and should be a material consideration in decisions on planning applications. The Noise Policy Statement for England came into force in 2010 and states:
- The aim of this document is to provide clarity regarding current policies and practices to enable noise management decisions to be made within the wider context, at the most appropriate level, in a cost-effective manner and in a timely fashion.
- This Noise Policy Statement for England (NPSE) should apply to all forms of noise including environmental noise, neighbour noise and neighbourhood noise. The NPSE does not apply to noise in the workplace (occupational noise).
Noise Policy Vision
Promote good health and a good quality of life through the effective management of noise within the context of Government policy on sustainable development.
Noise Policy Aims
Through the effective management and control of environmental, neighbour and neighbourhood noise within the context of Government policy on sustainable development:
- avoid significant adverse impacts on health and quality of life;
- mitigate and minimise adverse impacts on health and quality of life; and
- where possible, contribute to the improvement of health and quality of life.
The NPPF noise aims widely reflect those in NPSE. The NPSE does however include some context within the explanatory note to assessing noise impact and uses established concepts from toxicology currently being applied to noise impacts, these include:
NOEL – No Observed Effect Leve. This is the level below which no effect can be detected. In simple terms, below this level, there is no detectable effect on health and quality of life due to the noise.
SOAEL – Significant Observed Adverse Effect Leve. This is the level above which significant adverse effects on health and quality of life occur.
LOAEL – Lowest Observed Adverse Effect Level. This is the level above which adverse effects on health and quality of life can be detected.
However, it’s clear that it is not possible to have a single objective noise-based measure that defines SOAEL that is applicable to all sources of noise in all situations. Consequently, the SOAEL is likely to be different for different noise sources, for different receptors and at different times.
Opportunities and Threats
Whilst PPG 24 may have been a hybrid of policy and technical advice, it was referenced either directly or indirectly in most Local Authority Policy statements related to noise and, in many cases, formed the basis for Supplementary Planning Guidance (primarily produced and used by Environmental Health Departments to inform residents, developers and acoustic consultants on appropriate design criteria for noise sensitive and noise generating development).
With the introduction of the NPPF/NPSE opportunities exist for Local Authorities to introduce and implement smart acoustic design into local policy where the soundscape of the locality, along with an integrated approach to work and living spaces, are considered at the appropriate stage; and not just add-ons to ensure compliance with a single figure target.
Local Technical Advice
Even with the removal of PPG24 there are existing sources of national and international guidance, which may inform the production of local technical guidance related acoustic design for noise sensitive and noise generating development. These may include:
- BS8233: 1999: ‘Sound Insulation and Noise Reduction for Buildings – Code of Practice’
- BS4142 1997 Method for rating industrial noise affecting mixed residential and industrial areas
- BS 5228-2:2009- Code of practice for noise and vibration control on construction and open sites
- WHO 1999 Guidelines for Community Noise
- NPPF Technical Advice for Mineral Extraction
- BS 6742 2008- Guide to evaluation of human exposure to vibration in buildings
- BS 7385 Evaluation and measurement for vibration in buildings. Guide to damage levels from ground borne vibration
- Noise council CoP on Environmental Noise from concerts 1995
- IS) 1996 Acoustics Description, measurement and assessment of environmental noise
Local Guidance will need to reflect the aims detailed in the NPSE. As a consequence, this may mean that development objectives include:
- Reduction of noise in noisy areas or no increase in noise in quite areas
- The use of all reasonable practicable measures to avoid an increase in noise or minimise any increase in noise
- Levels of noise above SOAEL will typically be inappropriate for development unless other significant sustainability benefits outweigh adverse noise impacts.
The relationship between sustainability and compliance with acoustic design criteria may be flexible and require a form of cost-benefit analysis, or other assessment, in order to demonstrate that development is acceptable. However, in the first instance, the following noise criteria outcomes may typically apply:
|Noise Impact||Noise Impact Category||Acoustic Acceptability Outcome|
|Development is suitable/acceptable without further acoustic design requirements|
|Development is in principal suitable/ acceptable subject to acoustic design requirements|
|Development is unsuitable /unacceptable|
Table1 : Development noise impact and acoustic acceptability outcome matrix
The process for LA’s will obviously be challenging and will require new considerations, however failure to deal with this at the appropriate stage or simply waiting for national guidance to emerge may lead to negative outcomes on local communities, including:
- Leaving the door open to inappropriate and unacceptable development (leading to a loss of quality of life);
- The potential for further inconsistency amongst local authorities with regard to acoustic design requirements; and
- By allowing self-selecting interested parties to over emphasise noise impact issues (effectively sterilising an area against development and the economic benefits it brings).
Author: Chris Hurst BSc, MCIEH, MIOA.
Views expressed are those of the author only.