How the early involvement of a noise consultant benefits masterplanning residential developments

Senior Director, Phil Evans discusses a recent failed appeal on a proposed residential development and how early advice from a noise consultant could have led to a more positive outcome.

The proposed development is located adjacent to the busy A49 at Wellington in Herefordshire. It failed at appeal with the Inspector commenting “I accept that the recommended noise levels with windows open and in external garden areas may not always be achievable in all developments…. However, Planning Practice Guidance states that good acoustic design needs to be considered early in the planning process to ensure that the most appropriate and cost-effective solutions are identified from the outset. The council has argued that in the appeal case, the acoustic environment has not been considered in the design and layout of the scheme. I concur with this view”.

What can we learn from this?

“The above decision clearly demonstrates the benefits of noise effects being considered early in the planning process” advises Senior Director, Phil Evans. “The perception is that this may increase costs but this isn’t necessarily the case as costs may be saved later in the process with a smoother passage through planning and certainly saved if a failed appeal becomes the end of the process”.

Whilst early involvement of the noise consultant in the development design process has been promoted for some time, this rarely happens in practice as this has not been considered to be an essential requirement.

Over recent years, a number of articles have discussed the noise guidance for residential developments – the ProPG: Planning & Noise – Professional Practice Guidance on Planning and Noise – New Residential Development – May 2017. This guidance was produced by a working group made up of representatives from the Association of Noise Consultants, the Institute of Acoustics and the Chartered Institute of Environment Health.

The primary focus of the ProPG is to assist with the delivery of sustainable development by promoting good health and wellbeing through the effective management of noise. It seeks to do this through encouraging a good design process in and around proposed new residential development having regard to national policy on planning and noise. One of the key recommendations is that full consideration of the acoustic environment should occur from the earliest possible stage of the development control process. The summary visual below breaks down the overall ProPG approach.

174 - ProPG approach Infographic.png

The ProPG approach

 “Whilst this isn’t statutory government guidance” advises Phil. “It has become widely accepted as best practice by local authorities and an adopted methodology by many acoustics consultancies”.

It is strongly recommended that architects and planners should discuss potential residential developments with a noise consultant prior to developing the masterplan. This can save subsequent problems and costs if the masterplan has to be reiterated. This not only relates to the houses but also gardens, amenity areas and other areas of public open space.

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