Susan Hirst, Principal Acoustics Consultant, takes a look at the new ProPG on Planning and Noise for new residential development and explains the changes we can expect.
The new Professional Practice Guidance (ProPG) on Planning and Noise was jointly published in May by the Association of Noise Consultants, the Institute of Acoustics and Chartered Institute of Environmental Health. It draws upon guidance expanding upon national policy and guidance within British Standards and published by the World Health Organisation.
The guidance provides clear direction for approaching the pre-planning assessment of residential developments in relation to noise, primarily from transport sources. The implication being that it will likely become increasingly more important to address acoustic issues early on in the planning process.
It advocates full consideration of the entire acoustic environment from the earliest stage of the development process and, where possible, seeks opportunities to protect, improve and enhance the physical site environment. Strong emphasis is placed on an integrated design approach, where noise is considered holistically alongside other design considerations, such as how acoustic façade design may impact on ventilation and overheating, and noise barriers on visual and access requirements.
It recommends a two stage approach:
Stage 1 includes an initial risk assessment based on baseline noise levels. All sites above negligible risk should proceed to Stage 2. The Stage 1 risk assessment should be conducted as early as possible to ensure all relevant aspects are considered within the early stages– some of which may require further consultation with the planning authority.
At Stage 2, four key design elements should be considered. These will be presented in an Acoustic Design Statement (ADS) indicating (i) which elements are a good acoustic design process; (ii) internal noise level guidelines; (iii) noise in external amenity areas and (iv) other relevant issues. The guidance provides recommendations for decision makers based on the outcome of the Stage 2 assessment as presented in the ADS.
Authorities are recommended to grant consent for developments where good acoustic design can be demonstrated (subject to other elements being suitable), with relatively straightforward controls. Failure to demonstrate good acoustic design could mean refusal or delays in the planning process.
If all aspects within the ADS are covered during pre-planning, or the site is of negligible risk, it advises decision makers that consent could be granted without need for conditions; or with a simple condition ensuring specific acoustic design details in the ADS are included in the finished development.
For developers, the primary implication is the need to demonstrate that a good acoustic design process has been followed throughout the pre-planning stages, including options for building location, layout and orientation, as well as a possible need to provide a quiet external amenity space. In practice, this requires acoustics to be considered early in consultations with planning authorities and good pre-planning coordination of acoustics and other elements of the build, particularly mechanical and electrical engineering design, to ensure an integrated approach.
RPS acoustics team operates across the UK from a number of offices and is currently working on a number of residential developments where this guidance is being implemented. These initial assessments are being worked on to provide a new report assessment structure and to confirm any required changes to our normal scope of work, and consequently costs.
Generally, this ProPG is seen as beneficial as it fills the void following the revocation of PPG 24 on Planning and Noise by the NPPF and the lack of any specific guidance released within the UK by Government. It clearly caters for development in adverse noise environments, often brownfield, where local authorities may previously have refused them despite it being demonstrated that appropriate internal living environments could be achieved by good design. This should significantly assist in filling some of the UK’s ongoing housing deficit.