Planning Guidance
The EPA Guidance note for Noise Action planning (2009) includes some sections that cover planning aspects and it contains the following observation; ‘Whilst Local Authorities have it within their powers to set conditions relating to noise as part of a planning permission, there is currently no national policy or guidance which addresses the issue of noise during planning. This can lead to inconsistencies in relation to both the assessment and conditioning of planning applications’.

The EPA view is that there is still a need for planning guidance which could outline some of the main noise elements that would need to be considered by planners such as:
– demonstrating a good acoustic design process;
– observing internal noise level guidelines;
– undertaking an external amenity area noise assessment.

In May 2017, the UK Association of Noise Consultants (ANC), the Institute of Acoustics (IOA) and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) issued the practical ProPG planning and noise guidance note. This UK Guidance has been produced to provide practitioners with guidance on a recommended approach to the management of noise within the planning system in England, and it encourages improved standards of design.

The recommended approach in the UK provides opportunities to incorporate effective design interventions for noise that will enable residential development to proceed in areas that might otherwise have been considered unsuitable. For those situations where it is not appropriate to build new dwellings, the guidance will assist as it encourages early identification of the risk of refusal and supports early decision making – thereby avoiding unnecessary development and design costs.

The various ProPG documents represent a very good source of guidance and a best practice approach to the assessment and management of noise in a planning context.

Although the Foreword specifically references England, it does not have a mandatory or statutory footing. As such, it contains guidance that could be equally valid in Ireland when used for detailed planning assessments or for the purposes of informing policy decisions. The CIEH, IOA and ANC worked together to produce this guidance ‘which encourages better acoustic design for new residential development and aims to protect people from the harmful effects of noise’.

The IOA is well established in Ireland, and so ProPG could offer some degree of
standardisation if was to be considered by Irish planners and developers. In the absence of planning guidance such as ProPG we could end up with a situation whereby the need for and nature of noise assessments varies significantly from county to county. This could in turn give rise to issues with consistency of interpretation and approach to mitigation. All the LAs should be encouraged to follow the same basic approach as this
should help to avoid significant discrepancies until such time as specific noise guidance is produced for Ireland. It would also be beneficial for each Local Authority to liaise with other LAs in their area in relation to their noise action plan.