We welcome the Welsh Government’s Noise and Soundscape Action Plan 2018 – 2023. The Welsh Government is the first national government in the world to embrace emergent thinking around noise and acoustics by referring to Soundscape in the title and throughout the action plan. They have placed the requirement for good acoustic design and soundscape management at the heart of development and noise policy with their integrated Planning Policy Edition 10 and Noise and Soundscape Action Plan. In so doing, the Welsh Government makes two references to Association of Noise Consultants’ publications – the ProPG and the draft Acoustics Ventilation & Overheating: Residential Design Guide. We are proud to have had a hand in both those documents, and delighted to see them being adopted in national policies.
The Action Plan notes at para.4.4.7:
Good acoustic design is, however, about more than just the numbers. It is a holistic design process that creates places that are both comfortable and attractive to live in, where acoustics is considered integral to the living environment. For more information on the principles of good acoustic design, readers are referred to Professional Planning Guidance (ProPG) Supplementary Document 2, produced by the Association of Noise Consultants, the Institute of Acoustics and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health. ProPG has been written principally to assist with the planning process in England, but the design principles put forward in Supplementary Document 2 may also be adopted in Wales.
And at para. 4.5.4:
The Association of Noise Consultants’ draft Acoustics, Ventilation and Overheating Guide observes that while local planning authorities may be responsible for assessing and enforcing mitigation against outdoor sound, ventilation is addressed through the Building Regulations, and while there is no statutory requirement to assess the potential for overheating in dwellings, such an assessment may be undertaken to meet planning and/or the developer’s requirements. Hence, as well as being undertaken by different designers, the adequacy of the provisions for each aspect may be assessed by different bodies and potentially based on different requirements. The draft guide recommends an approach to acoustic assessments for new residential development that takes due regard of the interdependence of provisions for acoustics, ventilation, and overheating.
The Welsh Noise and Soundscape Action Plan notes that noise can disrupt sleep and increase levels of stress, irritation and fatigue, as well as interfering with important activities such as learning, working and relaxing. Exposure to noise in the long term can increase the risk of hypertension-related illnesses and cardiovascular disease. The document references the latest World Health Organisation Environmental Noise Guidelines for the European Region, which were published in October 2018. As part of the National Survey for Wales 2017-18, 24% of people indicated that they had regularly been bothered by noise from outside their home in the previous 12 months. The National Survey found that people who lived in materially deprived households or deprived areas were more likely to be bothered by noise. Noise is more than a public health issue: it is a political issue too.
The noise and soundscape action plan is the Welsh Government’s central noise policy document, and has been produced collaboratively with local authorities and other public bodies. It outlines the Welsh public sector’s strategic policy direction in relation to noise and soundscape management for the next 5 years. By referring to Soundscape in the title and throughout, it signals that it understands sound in context, and that noise is about more just decibels. It recognises that we also need to create appropriate soundscapes, meaning the right acoustic environment in the right place at appropriate times. The UK’s Noise Abatement Society has praised the Welsh Government for being the first national government to explicitly embed the requirements of good acoustic design and soundscape management in its noise policy, and awarded it the prestigious John Connell Award 2018.
The Association of Noise Consultants was one of the eleven organisations to comment on the draft policy. The consultation responses were overwhelmingly supportive of the approach being taken by the Welsh Government, and suggested a number of improvements to the proposed text. It is understood that the Welsh Government will conduct a review of Technical Advice Note (TAN) 11: Noise, with a view to replacing it with a new TAN addressing air quality and soundscape. Hopefully other regions of the UK will be brave enough to follow the path that Wales is pioneering.
Download the Noise and soundscape action plan from the gov.wales website: