Quieter Society: Why are noise impact assessments important?

Noise pollution from road traffic

In the modern world there is more noise pollution than ever before; this comes from myriad sources, from sirens and alarms to vehicles and venues. As more and more people start to inhabit an increasingly compacted space through urban environments, the work of acoustic consultants is becoming evermore important…

The general role of an acoustic consultant to is to ‘manage and control noise and vibration’ for their clients. This can be done through a variety of means and methods, one of the most important methods in the context of busy urban environments in the noise impact assessment.

The primary purpose of a noise impact assessment is to measure and predict the impact that a client’s development will have on the surrounding environment, residents and whatever noise sensitive receptors (NSRs) happen to be within the vicinity.

The need for a noise impact assessment can arise for any number of reasons; this can include the opening of an entertainment premises in a sensitive area, the installation of a new air-conditioning unit or even from a change in opening hours of a premises that already has permission to operate from the local council. If required, the first person that will likely be involved in informing a client that they are in need of a noise impact assessment will be their case or planning permission officer or the local environmental health team. In the latter instance, this will typically be due to the fact that a complaint or concern has arisen around the increased noise that has occurred through one of the reasons given earlier in this paragraph.

A thorough noise impact assessment will measure and predict the effects that the new noise source will be likely have on the current noise climate. This is achieved through establishing a baseline measure of the existing noise climate and then comparing this with the introduced noise. If this comparison cannot be achieved due to practical purposes – for instance, in testing the likely impact of a shooting range which has yet to be built – then a reasonable prediction can be made through various modelling methods.

Due to the huge variety of scenarios and requirements that can be present during noise impact assessments, it is important to liaise with both a case officer, environmental health team and acoustic consultant in order to ensure that the appropriate legislation and British Standards are being adhered to.