Headlines: May 19th, 2008

People living in big cities and other urban areas of England can now go online to see a snapshot of noise levels in their neighbourhoods. A new Defra website gives access to maps showing the level of environmental noise from industry and road and rail networks in 23 towns and cities.

The site has information covering 50,000 miles of roads in built up areas and more than 17,000 miles of major road networks as well as almost 3,000 miles of railways. The idea is that it can be used to draw up action plans to reduce unreasonable noise levels where that is practical. In urban areas the plans could include measures to protect designated quiet areas. People using the site can access the maps by searching using postcodes. They show noise levels over an average 24 hour period, as well as during night time hours only.

The new site, http://www.defra.gov.uk/noisemapping also has information on the number of people exposed to these levels of noise. Under the Environmental Noise Directive, all member states of the European Union have to produce such maps. The mapping was carried out during 2006-07 as part of Defra’s work to implement the directive. The information incorporates the noise maps produced for the 18 English airports published last December. In the next phase there will be a public consulation as Defra develops action plans.

The Environment Minister Jonathan Shaw, who launched the site, said transport and industry were a necessary part of modern life but it was important to look at what practical steps could be taken to make people’s lives more tranquil. “These maps provide the most comprehensive snapshot yet of noise in our country, all at the click of a mouse. They will provide a springboard to go forward and tackle unnecessary and unreasonable noise pollution,” he added.