There has been an interesting update come across my desk this week relating to the BS4142 noise impact guidelines. Now, that may not sound the most exciting update in the world but for anyone who works in environmental noise, planning or development they need to sit up and take note.
The British Standard (BS) 4142 guidelines currently determines the potential noise impact on residential areas. Very recently it was given an overhaul and had now been extended to cover more situations that directly affect many more business sectors.
Historically, these guidelines were intended to cover industrial plant and associated noise stemming from industrial premises but, as time and industry have moved on, so have the guidelines. They now extend to clearly cover servicing and deliveries and common sense suggests this will impact on non-industrial premises such as shops, hotels and even offices.
At the same as this extension of the guidelines, the assessment criteria for ‘low impact’ noise is still open to interpretation and could be seen as more relaxed than the previous standard.
The guidelines are still not designed to assess the likelihood of noise nuisance, only the noise impact. This is an important distinction, as an adverse noise impact does not necessarily guarantee complaints and a complaint does not always verify an adverse noise impact.
There is, however, a danger that a more open definition of a ‘low impact’ could lead to legal squabbles, pitting one consultant’s view against another’s and assessment results could vary significantly.
I would say the changes are more likely to affect locations outside of central London, as council standards within the London boroughs are already tighter than the new standard – thanks to the close proximity of commercial and residential within the Capital.
The greater potential for discussions around noise impact, combined with the relaxed criteria, makes the new standard more aligned with the National Planning Policy Framework and its support for sustainable development.
This could mean the possibility that higher levels of noise may be acceptable if supporting a specific purpose or wider benefit. I’ll be watching how the guidelines are interpreted over the coming months and report back.