Planning authorities get new 'quiet area' designation powers

Councils can identify local green spaces as 'quiet areas' which, if formally designated, would become material considerations in planning decisions, under a new noise action plan published by the government.

Parks: such spaces could be designated as 'quiet areas' under new action plan

Noise Action Plan: Agglomerations (Urban Areas), published this week by the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra), has been developed by the department under the terms of the Environmental Noise (England) Regulations 2006.

The regulations implement the 2002 European Union Environmental Noise Directive in England.

The noise action plan document says its aim is "to promote good health and good quality of life (wellbeing) through the effective management of noise".

"This means that those authorities responsible for implementing this Action Plan will need to balance any potential action to manage noise with wider environmental, social and economic considerations, including cost effectiveness," the document says.

The plan is relevant to authorities in ‘agglomerations’ - defined by the plan as "areas having a population in excess of 100,000 persons and a population density equal to or greater than 500 people per km2 and which is considered to be urbanised".

The document says the regulations "require that Action Plans for agglomerations include provisions that aim to protect existing quiet areas from an increase in noise".

It says that eligible local authorities are able to nominate approved local green spaces, delineated in local or neighbourhood plans, for formal identification as Environmental Noise Directive quiet areas.

The document says that, in the case of the London agglomeration, nominated spaces will either need to have first been designated in a local or neighbourhood plan as a local green space or as Metropolitan Open Land in a local plan.

It says that "this is intended to streamline the process for London applicants, as Metropolitan Open Land is strategically important and is already afforded the same level of protection as land designated as Local Green Spaces".

The noise plan says that the nominated spaces "should be quiet or relatively quiet, and generate significant benefits (in terms of health, wellbeing, and quality of life) for the communities they serve because of their quietness".

Nominations for quiet areas would be submitted to Defra which would then "formally identify a selection of the nominated spaces as quiet areas, as long as the relevant criteria have been met."