Department seeks views on proposals to cut legislation on Noise Abatement Zones, which are used by local authorities to tackle high noise levels, writes Michael Holder
Defra is seeking views on proposals to abolish Noise Abatement Zones (NAZ) as part of the Governmentâ€™s drive to save money and cut unnecessary legislation.
NAZs were set up as part of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 as a way for local authorities to tackle high noise levels in specific areas.
However, as part of the Governmentâ€™s â€˜Red Tape Challengeâ€™ campaign to reduce bureaucracy, Defra is proposing to repeal sections 63 to 67 of the Act because few local authorities have made use of the NAZ legislation.
The proposals are to abolish all existing NAZs and prevent new ones being established.
A total of 86 NAZs have been established since the Act was passed, but Defra said the only two remaining NAZs in active use in the country are looked after by Solihull Metropolitan borough council and Newcastle city council.
According to Defra, only five of the 86 NAZs established have been revoked. The remaining 79 â€“ including three in Wales but none in Scotland â€“ are not being enforced and are considered inactive.
Defraâ€™s consultation document states: â€œNAZs were introduced to prevent deterioration in environmental noise levels and to achieve reductions in noise levels wherever practicable. They were intended to provide a means to control creeping background sound levels and to tackle unacceptable noise environments resulting from multiple sources of noise. However, establishing and maintaining NAZs has proved onerous for local authorities.â€
In a statement accompanying the consultation document, Defra said: â€œThe powers have been little used since they were introduced nearly 40 years ago and we believe only two Noise Abatement Zones are currently in active use, both covering a single premises.
â€œAs part of the Governmentâ€™s Red Tape Challenge, weÂ are reviewing unnecessary legislation and our analysis suggests that repealing the relevant sections of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 would save local authorities time and money, as they would not have to formally revoke any Noise Abatement Zones that are no longer in use. Few local authorities are affected, so the savings are relatively small but repeal may also benefit premises covered by these â€˜inactiveâ€™ Noise Abatement Zones, as abolishing them would remove any confusion over their status.â€
John Stewart, chair of the UK Noise Association (UKNA), said he thought abolishing NAZs would make â€œlittle differenceâ€ to noise reduction because they were so rarely used or enforced.
Londoner Mr Stewart, who is also chair of the Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (HACAN), said the UKNA would be giving its views on the issue to Defra, commenting: â€œIn response to the consultation we will say that it is more important to introduce policy that cut noise generally â€“ such as lower speeds limits â€“ than concentrate on specific areas.â€
Mr Stewart said: â€œTo be honest, I suspect getting rid of Noise Abatement Zones will make little difference in practice.Â The concept of Noise Abatement Zones has value but, since few local authorities have made use of them, they have only themselves to blame when they are taken away.â€
He added: â€œIt would be incredibly ironic if local authorities start objecting to NAZ abolishment after not having made any use of them before. My own view is that many local authorities havenâ€™t seen noise as a pressing problem. Only two NAZs have been set up â€“ only two local authorities have used them in the country.â€
Mr Stewart, who lives in London, continued: â€œIncreasingly, noise from traffic and other places has not been on the agenda. We have seen pedestrian zones, cycle lanes and other similar schemes put in place, but these havenâ€™t done enough to address the problem with noise. I donâ€™t think local authorities have really thought through how to deal with noise.â€
The Control of Pollution Act 1974 gave local authorities the power to establish NAZs in designated areas where high levels of noise are reported as a problem.
A notice is served by the local authority to premises in the NAZ creating high levels of noise and the owner of the premises is given a specific time limit in which to take appropriate action to reduce levels.
Noise levels are then monitored and premises within these zones are required to meet noise limits stipulated by the local authority.
If noise emitted from any premises exceeds stipulated limits in a NAZ, the person responsible shall be guilty of an offence under the Act and given a limited fine by magistratesâ€™ court.
The consultation will run from 7 December 2012 until 14 January 2013. More information on the consultation can be found on the Defra website here.