Page last updated at 18:08 GMT, Monday, 15 March 2010

UK responds to EU noise directive

By Roger Harrabin
Environment analyst, BBC News

Busy road (BBC)
Councils will be able to insist on lower speed limits

The UK government has responded to the EU Noise Directive by publishing a long-delayed noise policy statement.

Councils in the 23 noisiest cities will be able insist authorities operating roads or railways install quieter road surfaces or noise barriers.

They can also insist on lower speed limits, especially at night.

The plan was welcomed by campaigners who complain they've waited too long to have noise identified as a serious environmental issue.

Excessive noise affects millions of people in the UK. People living near busy roads suffer increased problems from mental and physical health, with sleep deprivation and raised blood pressure among the symptoms.

A recent study in London blamed traffic noise on busy roads for hastening heart attacks in some cases, too.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has drawn up noise maps of the UK.

A Defra spokesman told BBC News that the transport providers would pay the bill for any noise abatement.

The process of establishing quiet areas in the noisy cities will begin in July this year.

Philip Mulligan, the chief executive of Environmental Protection UK, said: "The Noise Policy Statement for England marks official recognition at last of noise as a pervasive national problem. Many of us hear road traffic noise most of the time.

"We welcome this recognition by government that noise must be considered in all decision-making in order to work towards a quieter, healthier country.

"It should no longer just be the realm of the noise specialist, who too often is only called in when unbearable noise levels are reached. We look forward to finally seeing the consideration of noise, our most pervasive environmental pollutant, integrated into all government policy."

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