NSCA sounds the alarm over Noise Directive

Noise and pests - with the added issue of light pollution - remain the main concerns for environmental health departments within local authorities who now have enhanced powers to deal with nuisance in many of its forms. Editor Alexander Catto reviews recent developments across the field

Responding to the Government's long overdue consultation on transposition of the Environmental Noise Directive (END), which closed on 16 May, NSCA has expressed disappointment that the proposals totally fail to tackle noise issues in a realistic way.

NSCA Chief Executive Martin Joseph said: "The consultation looks very much like a fait accompli. We are disappointed, because the Directive offers a real opportunity to develop imaginative polices to tackle environmental noise. The current proposals fail to make the most of that opportunity". The following key areas for concern are identified by NSCA:

  • Nearly five years after Ministers made a commitment to addressing environmental noise, there has been no tangible progress towards a national noise strategy.
  • In 2000, £13 million was allocated for noise mapping England alone - this is now reduced to £4.6 million for the whole of the UK. The 2000 figure included funding for data collection and validation and for resourcing and equipping local authorities. The consultation also suggests £1.8 million for noise action plan preparation, but nothing for actually implementing noise action plans. NSCA considers this unsatisfactory
  • The term "Authorities" used in the Directive is understood to be a generic term for local authorities, however these proposals suggest that, in most cases, competent authorities will be the "Secretary of State".
  • Experience from Noise Mapping in Birmingham and London suggests that local ownership and understanding of maps and plans and their use will lead to genuine action. NSCA urges Government amend its proposals to transfer "ownership" to local authorities, with appropriate funding.
  • Aircraft noise is one of the most disturbing and annoying noise sources, yet it is proposed that the Competent Authority for airports should be the Secretary of State for designated airports and the airport authorities for non-designated airports. And in the latter case, such maps and plans will not even receive the approval mechanism provided within the Directive. NSCA considers this unsatisfactory.
  • There are no proposals to produce consolidated maps combining road, rail, aircraft and industrial noise, or to include noise from sources excluded from the Directive. This is despite previous ministerial commitment to include, for example, military noise. As a result, individual maps could show as little as a quarter of the real noise climate in an area. NSCA considers this unsatisfactory.
  • Alarms and light pollution

    The NSCA also took issue with aspects of the recently enacted Clean Neighbourhoods Act, which embodies new powers to control alarms and light pollution. The association broadly welcomed the new law under which, for example, alarm notification areas can now be designated, where homeowners must register a key holder, to enable swift disconnection of misfiring intruder alarms - achieving one of NSCA's Ten Targets for Tranquillity. Light pollution can now be a designated a statutory nuisance, which provides a means of managing increasing incidences of night time disturbance by intrusive light.

    Mary Stevens of NSCA said: "However, in some areas the Act has missed opportunities to take more comprehensive measures to improve local environmental quality". For instance, fire alarms as well as intruder alarms can cause nuisance, and are not covered.

    Sound advice

    Local authorities are also doing their bit, with initiatives such as the recently launched guide to advise businesses on how to control noise pollution produced by Tameside Council in Greater Manchester.

    The guide, which deals with noise from pubs and clubs, gives practical advice on the steps that licensees can take to stop excessive noise causing a problem for nearby residents.

    Licensees are being recommended to conduct regular perimeter noise surveys and to keep a log book with details of the surveys as well as any complaints and responses.

    Councillor Catherine Piddington, Cabinet Deputy for Environmental Services, believes that the new guide will be extremely useful for licensees to manage noise from clubs and pubs.

    A copy of the guide can be found on the council's website at www.tameside.gov.uk

    Pest control

    On the pest control front local authorities have been mounting initiatives at aimed at specific nuisances.

    In London, Haringey's Enforcement Team Leader for Pest Control, Eubert Malcolm, gave a presentation on best practice in the treatment of rats at the launch of the London wide sewer rats joint protocol in April.

    Haringey is a lead member of the working group made up of Association of London Environmental Health Managers (ALEHM) and Thames Water representatives.

    From 21 April all rat complaints have been be directed from Thames Water to the relevant local authority to co-ordinate and improve responding to the public and highlighting "hot spots" requiring attention and treatment.

    Treatment plans will reflect:
  • Number of customer affected by the infestation
  • Number of customers potentially affected (eg housing estates) - public health impact
  • Proximity of vulnerable sites (eg schools, hospitals, food establishments)
  • Number of reported complaints and backed up by visits and assessment
  • Physical evidence and citings by environmental health staff on site (density measure)
  • Unresolved/recurring problem or received prior treatment.
  • Where necessary Haringey's enforcement officers will use powers available to target the causes of rat infestation. Formal actions could include prosecution where they find defective drainage, sites providing harbourage and inadequate arrangements over the control of food sources such as rubbish. Thames Water will be expected to ensure that its baiting of sewers is targeted at areas of known rat infestation and is co-ordinated with surface baiting activity performed by the council, or required by enforcement officers.

    Robin Payne, Assistant Director of Enforcement said: "This initiative represents a significant step forward in the way that rat infestations are treated across London. It will ensure that we maximise the effectiveness of treatment resources available to both local authorities and water companies, and help us to identify and target enforcement at those responsible for rat infestations."

    Flies menace

    At a recent "Pest Management on Waste" seminar, run by NBC Ltd, Clive Boase of the Pest Management Consultancy, reviewed measures to monitor flies on waste sites. Dealing with landfill sites he warned, "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it." He said: "On landfill sites, fly management is as essential as ever. Incoming waste is likely to be infested with flies during the warmer months, particularly now that waste collection in many areas is fortnightly rather than weekly. Waste separation at source may have reduced the total quantity of waste going to landfill, but at the same time has resulted in an increase in the proportion of putrescible material, which in turn will favour fly development."

    He said that fly monitoring systems had now been developed that worked well on landfill sites.


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