EU framework noise directive details emerge

Commission's environment DG proposes compulsory monitoring, no exposure limit values

The European Commission's environment directorate general (DG) has completed a first draft text for a new EU directive and is proposing a requirement for all major cities to monitor noise levels and make maps showing which areas experience unacceptable levels. The environment DG hopes to produce a final version of the draft in the spring, and to get an official proposal published by the full Commission in the second half of next year.

The unofficial draft was circulated last week at a meeting in Brussels of the various working groups that have been looking into the technical aspects of measuring and mapping noise. These were set up after a major conference in Copenhagen last year where the then EU environment commissioner, Ritt Bjerregaard, said that draft legislation to control nuisance noise would be forthcoming (ENDS Daily 9 September 1998).

The first draft of the directive does not propose setting any limit values on noise levels, unlike the various air pollution directives which have recently been proposed by the Commission to tackle levels of pollutants such as carbon monoxide (ENDS Daily 2 December 1998). Instead, it would set out details of how to measure noise so that fair comparisons could be made of the noise problem in cities across Europe. Local authorities would have to make this information public, which could put pressure on them to act to curb noise in the areas shown to be adversely affected.

An environment DG official told ENDS Daily that the Commission might draft noise limit values in subsequent legislation, but that more statistical analysis using the new harmonised noise index would be needed first. In the meantime, the possibility of "naming and shaming" cities where noise is a problem would mean this first directive would have an important impact, he said.

As well as a new directive, the department plans to produce Commission communications on noise policy in the road, rail and industrial outdoor machinery sectors, and is setting up stakeholder working groups, including industry and NGO members, to look at what form these would take. The aviation sector is not being targeted at this time, despite the fact it is perceived as a major cause of noise nuisance, because of the politically sensitive discussions over "hushkitted" aircraft currently under way between the Commission and the US government (ENDS Daily 20 September).

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