Briefing Paper: Planning for Healthy Acoustic Environments

In October 2016, RTC created a briefing paper called Planning for Healthy Acoustic Environments commissioned by Martina Lundy, Belfast City Council, as part of the council’s drafting of new planning policy.

Health will be an important consideration for councils in Northern Ireland as they prepare Community Plans and Local Development Plans as a result of the local government reform in 2015. Sound is an important but often overlooked factor affecting health and wellbeing, especially in cities, and while many environmental health factors in urban areas are improving, noise pollution continues to rise (Goines and Hagler, 2007).

The way that sound affects our wellbeing goes far beyond the impairment of the ear organ and noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). It has been shown to affect blood pressure, mental health, crime and antisocial behaviour as well as economic sustainability and the biodiversity of our natural environments. Therefore, acoustic planning is relevant to councils’ Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for the Community Plan, and the Sustainability Appraisal (SA) that accompanies the Preferred Options Paper for the Local Development Plan.

This briefing paper presents evidence of health issues associated with noise and sound, and how this can relate to land use planning. It provides evidence that land use planning can improve such issues through considering sound at an early stage, and that this can contribute to economic, environmental and social sustainability.

 Taking sound measurements and recordings in the Cathedral Quarter, Belfast

Taking sound measurements and recordings in the Cathedral Quarter, Belfast