Harmonised EU noise measuring proposed

European Commission issues draft directive on noise assessment, management

The European Commission today proposed an EU directive on noise assessment and management, concentrating on noise from transport and industrial sources. The directive will introduce a harmonised noise measurement unit and oblige member states to create noise maps and adopt noise "action plans" in large cities and towns. It does not set EU limits on noise, which will remain a task for member states.

Presenting the directive, Commission officials said a current plethora of noise measurement practices throughout the EU meant that national noise reduction measures could not be compared and that harmonised noise limit values would be impossible to introduce. The directive proposal aims instead to "find the extent of the problem," they said. Early estimates suggest that noise causes damage of euros 13-38bn EU-wide, they said.

Under the plans, the EU will introduce two common "indicators" for noise. The first, LDEN, will measure "annoyance" due to noise exposure over a 24 hour period. The second, LNIGHT, will measure "sleep disturbance" during night hours. Such indicators are a prerequisite for any future EU noise limits but the directive sets no date for their introduction.

By the beginning of 2005 member states will have to draw up noise maps for cities with populations over 250,000, as well as major roads, railways and airports, but will be allowed to exclude purely industrial districts. In 2010, revised maps will have to be submitted along with first noise maps for cities with 100,000 or more inhabitants. By then around 50% of the EU population will be covered by the maps.

The Commission will publish the maps and the relevant national noise limits, expressed in the new EU units to allow comparisons. This, it says, will "put pressure on member states to set high standards." Officials are careful not to talk now of future EU-wide limits, though a 1996 green paper on noise said this could be given "consideration" in a "second stage". Member states will have to adopt noise "action plans," though these amount to no more than a list of steps taken or expected and contain no targets.

Environmental action group EEB welcomed the directive today but said it should have included binding limits on noise and be extended to include noise from neighbourhoods and workplaces. "We need a stronger approach against 'annoyance factor one' of EU citizens," it said in a statement.

Commission officials said the directive could become law quickly as it had strong support from the French presidency and was relatively uncontentious.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111, and press release IP/00/870 of 27 July on Rapid; EEB, tel: +32 2 289 1090, and press release.

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