HC Deb 08 November 1991 vol 198 cc301-3W
Mr. Pike

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the action he proposes to take arising from the noise review working party report published in October 1990.

Mr. Baldry

The Government's policy on noise was set out in the White Paper "This Common Inheritance" and reflects much of the thinking of the noise review working party. My speech to the Noise Council seminar on 15 May and that of my hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment and Countryside to the Institution of Environmental Health Officers on 10 September summarised progress.

A number of the working party's recommendations have already been implemented and the Government are actively working on others. Some of the main noise measures that have been taken are as follows.

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 has clarified local authority responsibilities for noise control and increased the maximum fine for statutory noise nuisance from business premises to £20,000. The Government are funding a pilot neighbourhood noise awareness scheme at Forest Hill, and are grant-aiding a neighbour mediation scheme in Bristol and a noise awareness project for school children in Nottingham. One of the eligible categories for grant under this year's environmental grant fund is for the formation of schemes to develop noise awareness/mediation. The Government are in contact with audio manufacturers to discuss good practice for audio users.

We have issued for comment guidance for environmental health officers and the police on existing powers to control noisy parties. In addition the Government have set up a working party to consider whether there is a need for further measures to control noisy parties. A draft code of practice on pop concerts has been published.

The Building Regulations governing noise within buildings are to be amended to include for the first time in England and Wales noise insulation for flat conversions which will be as close as possible to standards for new buildings. Comments on our proposals have been received and it is planned that regulations will be laid by early December with a view to their coming into force next June.

The Government have published a consultation document on tighter noise requirements for car alarms fitted to motor vehicles first used from August 1992. The main proposal is that the length of alarm be reduced from five minutes to 30 seconds and audible arming signals be banned. Responses to the consultation exercise are being considered. Also we shall be reviewing the new powers to control burglar alarms taken by London local authorities to determine whether there is a case for extending them nationwide.

The Government have recently issued draft guidance for consultation on control of noise at surface mineral workings and we shall shortly be issuing draft planning policy guidance for consultation on noise and new development, to update and expand existing advice. This will include noise from roads, aircraft, railways and industry. It will also take forward the working party's several recommendations about the need to establish action levels or exposure bands for controlling new development.

The Government plan to carry out research in 1992–93 to assess whether the current noise standard for noise insulation for new roads is still appropriate. We hope shortly to announce our conclusions on the report of the committee set up under the chairmanship of Dr. Mitchell to consider a noise insulation standard for new railway lines. The Government will consult on a draft of the regulations before they are made. A proposed revised planning procedure for new railway lines has been announced.

The Government have issued a consultation paper on control of noise at aerodromes. The main proposal is a new power to designate aerodromes—where informal consultation proves inadequate—to introduce formal consultative arrangements with the local authority. The extension of abatement orders to helicopters take-off and aerodrome ground running has been canvassed. The consultation period runs until end of the year. Also the Government recently announced that the amount of low flying by military jet aircraft is to decrease by about 30 per cent. over the next three years. The index for measurement of aircraft noise has been replaced by a more satisfactory measure.

Government policy on noise is underpinned with appropriate research and our programme has been re-aligned with priorities identified by the noise review working party. Forthcoming research includes a national noise attitude study, a model for human response to transportation noise, assessment and prediction of industrial noise, and low frequency noise.