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Year : 2003  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 18  |  Page : 31--38

Do public inquiries for noise control serve a useful purpose?--An acoustic consultant's view

Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, University of Southampton, United Kingdom

Correspondence Address:
I H Flindell
Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton, SO17 1BJ
United Kingdom
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

PMID: 12631434

Rights and PermissionsRights and Permissions

In the United Kingdom, before the introduction of the various town and country planning acts and associated regulations, landowners were free to use their land in any way they wished, subject only to limitations imposed by lease or covenant and the avoidance of nuisance or trespass against neighbours. Any disputes arising would be resolved by negotiation or via a court of law. Under current planning laws and regulations, local authorities are empowered to impose special conditions or even to refuse development to prevent excessive nuisance, but the resulting noise management solutions are not always optimum from either the noise maker's or the noise exposed's points of view. In addition, the planning system has almost no effect on existing noise. Public inquiries provide a useful mechanism for the investigation of appeals against local authority decisions, or where the government has decided that issues of strategic or national importance need to be fully explored in a public forum. In practice, and largely because of individual disagreement, public inquiries can result in excessive delays while all interested parties are allowed to have their say. There seems to be an increasing consensus that the general inadequacy of existing methods of assessing noise impact is at least partly to blame. The new European Environmental Noise Directive represents a step change towards the imposition of one-size-fits-all regulatory or administrative procedures which should eventually contribute towards the reduction of public inquiry delays, but on the other hand, any weakening of the general principle of basing decisions on 'informed flexibility' will probably have significant negative consequences over the longer term.


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