The September 2007 target date for the formal identification of quiet areas in agglomerations was not met and there is no revised target date in the amended regulations. For the reasons set out below, the process has now been amended to allow more local participation and greater flexibility.
In terms of timing, the consultation on the draft noise action plans for agglomerations, which include the proposed method for identifying quiet areas, has just been completed. Subject to the review of the consultation responses, it is anticipated that the action plans will be formally adopted in the early part of next year. After that, the local nomination and formal identification of quiet areas will be implemented as part of the whole action planning process.
The environmental noise directive (END) requires the competent authorities of member states to draw up action plans for first round agglomerations (ie urban areas with more than 250,000 inhabitants). It also requires that these plans shall contain measures which aim to protect quiet areas within agglomerations against an increase in noise. The environmental noise regulations originally required the Secretary of State to identify quiet areas by 30 September 2007 for first round agglomerations, and by 30 September 2012 for second round agglomerations. In the consultation on the transposition of the END, Defra considered different criteria for identifying potential quiet areas, including relevant land use designations and acoustic thresholds.
As the process developed, however, it became evident that the centralised and mechanistic approach envisaged by the regulations for identifying quiet areas would be rather inflexible and potentially difficult to implement effectively. In addition, it became increasingly clear that making the identification of quiet areas an integral part of the action planning process—rather than being independent of it—could be beneficial in ensuring that, from a local perspective, the appropriate areas are identified.
This revised approach will enable local knowledge to be used to assist the competent authority, both in the identification of quiet areas and in ensuring that appropriate local policies are developed to protect such areas against an increase in noise. This more flexible approach will allow much greater local engagement than the process originally laid down in the regulations.