Planning for Noise is Child’s Play

Planning for Noise is Child’s Play

noisy children

Planning for Noisy Children

We regularly receive enquiries citing concerns about childrens’ play areas and noisy children; including outdoor sports areas, playgrounds and, even, nurseries. ‘The sound of from children playing – what could be so terrible about that?’ you may ask. Well, nothing in itself, but if a well-meaning local Councillor decided that a skate-park should be built next to your garden or if you were to be subject to the cries of up to 50 babies and toddlers from the nursery next door all day, you’d be naïve to think that it could not impact in some way on your home life.

Most complaints are initiated by a change in circumstances, a change in land use or, perhaps, the installation of new equipment. The first step in planning any change in land use or development is to ensure that it is located in a suitable location; after which the changes made need to be designed in such a way that minimises the chances of negative impacts to neighbours. It’s orientation, size, capacity and any measures to mitigate noise should be thought about at the design stage; not forgetting  detail about how is to be supervised, staffed or maintained. In many cases the distance between such facilities and noise-sensitive premises has not provided adequate separation. The level of technicality in any noise assessment depends upon the nature and scale of the development.

MUGAs and Noise

Whilst the use of ‘organised’ (often privately run) sports facilities can be limited by times of operation many public access games areas or childrens’ playgrounds are open throughout the day and, sometimes, at night when crime and anti-social behaviour can be a significant issue. “Multi-use Games Areas” (MUGAs) have been a popular addition alongside new developments or to support areas with high levels of social housing and promote healthy living. However, such facilities present, (sometimes insurmountable) problems associated with noise, opening hours and lighting. Sound barriers, as a last resort, are also often impractical due to security concerns and ease of access. Amongst other considerations distance is key.

Pubs and Play Areas

There is a growing trend for (sometimes extensive) play equipment to be installed in pub gardens in order to attract families. Any opportunity for increasing sales of food and drink is important in this sector; who often benefit over restaurants by having access to larger outdoor dining areas. Pub companies can sometimes overlook the consequences of installing playgrounds near to neighbouring residential properties; where they can be used every day throughout the summer and often until late into the evening. Many fail to apply for the required planning permission.

Noise and Nurseries

In the 2000’s there was a large increase in the number of private childcare establishments that gained planning permission. The boom in the sector supported a rapidly growing demand for spaces. Unfortunately, some were not well situated; being located, for example, in terraced houses or next to noise sensitive properties. The opportunity for highlighting concerns about noise is at the planning stage when unreasonable changes can be prevented; after which the problem becomes more difficult to control. Unlike schools nurseries tend to operate all year round without the respite provided by holidays. Nurseries also tend to have much smaller outdoor areas that are used at different times by different age-groups of children from anytime up to 6pm.

Careful Planning is Key to Tolerance

It would be easy to suggest that a growth in such complaints is an indication that we are becoming a less tolerant society. Not necessarily. Our population has grown by 10 million in the last few decades; and we are increasingly living in more densely populated spaces. If we are to maintain healthy lifestyles, have sufficient access to childcare facilities and ensure that businesses are able to compete, there will continue to be a demand for such facilities. The above examples demonstrate though, once again, that good planning and design must underpin any proposed change in use.

Do you have a noise issue? If so, check out this information from Noisenuisance.org.


This article has 5 comments

  1. We live in Cupar Fife and have a Nursery 10 feet from our bedroom window. It opens at eight and closes at 6.00 pm. Some days the children around 12 of them are out for up to 6 hours a day screaming and shouting. My husband is a regular night shift worker and has his sleep constantly disrupted despite double glazing and ear plugs. He has fallen asleep at the wheel and just managed to avoid an accident. We have lived here for 9 years..the nursery ground belonged to the nursery owners father so no objections were raised when it opened 16 years ago. It is in middle of very residential area and they have recently combined two nurseries in to one. We cannot sell the house at the moment and my health is also suffering wondering whether he might have an accident on way home.

    Despite two meetings and with other affected neighbours attending…things improve for a while but then revert back. Our life is utterly miserable due to closeness of nursery. Can you give me any advice? Thank you
    Jude Collins

  2. Hi Jude,
    Sorry to hear about your problem. Nurseries are a common source of pain for neighbours. Often due to poor planning decisions. There are some measures you can take but may not be quick. Message us through noisenuisance.org/advice-centre/ask-professional/
    with your telephone number and we’ll chat.

  3. Tina Michel-Stephen
    Tuesday 31 July 2018, 2:48 pm

    Hi, we live in Aberdeen, Fonthillroad  and have a Nursery next to our rear-  and front garden. The Nursery opens at 6:30am  and closes at 6 pm. Mostly in the summer the children are in the garten from 9 am until 11 am, (recently they started too come out 8:30 am) and from 1pm with small breaks until 5pm. The number of children ranges from starting off with 6 and later more children are added reaching up to16 children being in the garden screaming and shouting, but not only the children but also some of their younger staff. We have lived here for 21 years. Wenn the nursery started approximately 9 years ago they had a different management, using the playground (garden) for educational purposes and we hardly heard any noises. However, that changed 5 years ago when they moved the bigger children there. 
    We naively believed that nurseries must have  a code of conduct / regulations, with regard to when operating from a residential area, having to respect the rights of its neighbours, so no objections were raised before it opened. When the problem started both of us were working, now we are retired. We are unable to use our garden in the summer due to the endless excessive noises.
    When you have to live with that noise day in and out and that for hours it become intolerable and is utterly upsetting. Even having the window closed we cannot escape the noise and I think that is unacceptable.  We have tried to solve this matter by writing letters to the nursery thus finding solutions/compromises, however, the owner/management are very uncooperative. They have made promises in the past but did not honoured them. We also approached the City Council Environment Health Officer( who did not investigate our complaint appropriately and after only one visit ( prior the nursery was informed that he was coming) closed our case after that one 20 minutes visit. We sought also support  from two local Counsellors, (one was a SMP and one Labour)  without real success. We later found out that the SMP Counsellor was involved in the decision making in granting the application to become a nursery as the premise was previously used as a hotel.  

    We are feeling that we are an extension of the nursery, due to closeness of the nursery, which I find infringes greatly on our living space and having no rights is absolutely devastating. We have been told by the Aberdeen Council there are no policies or regulations in place to protect people like us.
    I would like to suggest that the people who grant nurseries planning applications in residential areas should live next to one for a week I am sure that would open their eyes.
    Please, any advice will be much appreciated? 

    Thanks and kind regards
    Tina Michel-Stephen

    • Hi Tina,
      Poor planning decision by the Council. The problems associated with businesses like nurseries are well known. The issue can be a statutory nuisance too. The EHO can impose restrictions on the use of the garden and keeping of doors closed etc. We have advice on our course/resource where you can raise questions.

  4. I have lived in my housing estate for 15 years we unfortunately live directly across from a toddler play area there are 2 in the estate the one opposite me is the bigger one with swings etc. There is clear signage ” Toddler Play Area” but obviously this is not adhered to and all the kids in the estate gravitate to this area creating unacceptable noise. I have complained to the factors who maintain the estate but they were not interested. This really impacts on my quality or lack of peace time in my house in the summer the screaming and shouting is early in the morning till late at night. I have went out when it’s been too much and told the kids to move away…Yes I’m that neighbour. We have a neighbourhood Facebook group and I posted my complaint last night but no-one cares as it doesn’t effect them or they feel their kids have a right to play. Is there any way to enforce the toddler only part as I have absolutely no issues with families with toddlers playing. I also pay yearly for the maintenance of the place which is a double blow. Any advice.

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