Review of the IEMA noise guidance update 2014

13th March 2015

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Peter Kneen at WYG highlights the changes brought in by IEMA's new noise guidance.

October 2014 saw the publication of IEMA’s guidelines for environmental noise impact assessment. This document replaces the draft guidelines published by the Institute of Acoustics (IOA) and IEMA in April 2002.

The new guidance has now been around for just over three months and consultants, planning authorities and other interested parties have been putting it into practice. This article outlines the main changes to the guidance and how these revisions are influencing noise impact assessments. It is a high-level review of the main changes and their implications rather than an in-depth analysis of all the technical differences between the two documents.

Most aspects of the new document will be well known and already in use by the majority of consultants. However, this document for the first time provides a comprehensive and user-friendly guide to noise impact assessments for all levels of understanding.

In contrast with the old guidance, the new document:

  • references national planning policy framework and planning practice guidance;
  • recommends additional post-development monitoring on EIA sites;
  • refers to up-to-date policies and documents; and
  • does not have IOA endorsement.

For EIA sites, the new guidance recommends additional noise monitoring after the construction phase. This is largely to make sure that the development does not exceed the noise conditions outlined in the original assessment or the planning conditions stipulated by the local planning authority (LPA). While this seems logical, it is unlikely that any developer will be enthused by the prospect of having to pay for further survey work when it is not a legal obligation.

The updated guidance, unlike its predecessor, is not officially endorsed by the IOA, although several members have been contributors. This has led to a number of specialists who are not members of IEMA, either not having heard of it or even refusing to use it. This is not to say that the IOA will never give their endorsement, but it potentially reduces the status of the document.

Consultants at WYG have not dramatically altered the way they undertake noise impact assessments since reading the new guidance. Like many other consultancies, we have been following similar practices to those outlined in the guidance for some time. We have incorporated the methodology into several technical and EIA reports of different scales and experienced some positive effects as a result. The update has given us more back up when clients, LPAs, or objectors question our methodology. Having guidance which references up-to-date policies certainly holds more weight than one that is more than 10 years’ old.

In conclusion, this new guidance is not a world away from the draft guidance published over a decade ago, but it is more streamlined, updated and a better written document. The most important thing about its publication is to provide a succinct guide which can be used by people who are not noise specialists to help them understand of technical noise reports.

With thanks to Graham Davis, Nathan Allen, Erin Banks and Adrian Rous.

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