Planning (and to some extent licensing) are the first, and arguably the most important, mechanisms that are used to prevent excessive noise; as opposed to reacting to noise after the event. Noise should be a factor in any new development, in other words:
- what will be the acoustic impact of the proposed development (or change to land-use) on the existing neighbourhood; and
- what will be the acoustic impact of the existing neighbourhood on the proposed development.
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.
The impact of the noise should be considered alongside the economic and social dimensions of the proposed development and the impact of the noise determined. In doing so the planning authority should determine whether:
- a significant adverse effect is occurring or likely to occur;
- an adverse effect is occurring or likely to occur; or
- a good standard of amenity can be achieved.
Reference may be made to the Noise Policy Statement if you are based in England.
Significant observed adverse effect level
This is the level of noise exposure above which significant adverse effects on health and quality of life occur.
Lowest observed adverse effect level
This is the level of noise exposure above which adverse effects on health and quality of life can be detected.
No observed effect level
This is the level of noise exposure below which no effect at all on health or quality of life can be detected.
The potential impact of noise on health and welfare needs to be considered alongside any variable factors that may apply to the individual circumstances. These may include:
- How loud it is together with the time of day it occurs.
- The number of noise events, frequency and pattern of the noise.
- Whether there are any significant high or low frequency characters to the noise that will result in it being more intrusive.
- Any cumulative impacts due to there being more than one source in the locality.
- The sensitivity of the acoustic environment.
- Any existing noise action plan or important areas.
- The effect on wildlife.
- The effect on external amenity spaces.
- Any potential effect of a new residential development next to a noise generating business.
- Any indirect noise impact suffered as a consequence of their operation.
Mitigating the Impact
Noise sensitive developments are not necessarily prohibited if the impact of the noise can be mitigated against, for example by:
- Reducing the noise output levels at source;
- Changing the layout of a proposed building or development;
- Applying planning conditions e.g. to restrict activities or times of operation;
- Mitigation of impact e.g. through noise insulation.
It may be that your local authority have developed a local plan which applies specific standards. If they have this will be crucial to any analysis of any proposed development. You will be able to obtain details of any local plans from your local authority planning officer or website.