Bureau Veritas calls for greater adoption of soundscape as landmark welsh strategy begins to create noise

Sep. 23 2019

With Wales leading the march in its progressive use of soundscape management, Bureau Veritas has emphasised the important opportunity this powerful approach to the consideration of the acoustic environment could also have in enhancing the health and wellbeing of the rest of the UK.

In a major step forward for noise policy, the Welsh Government published its ‘Noise and Soundscape Action Plan 2018-2023’ under the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, and in December 2018, Edition 10 of Planning Policy Wales (PPW) installed a framework for development policy with the health and wellbeing of its population at its heart.

The remit for Wales’ five-year action plan is to combat noise pollution by promoting ‘tranquil urban green spaces’ which nurture and bring residents together. This comes as research indicates that soundscape planning and design can not only improve sound environment quality in cities but enhance the environmental restorative quality for urban residents.

Richard Cope, Technical Director for the Acoustics & Vibration Group at Bureau Veritas UK states: “It is great to see that, as a result of mounting research evidence, policy influencers are finally starting to take note and drive the relatively new science of soundscape management from academia to industry.  For a long time, the dominant treatment of noise pollution has been to negate it all together, however this can have negative implications as it means residents lose out on all the positive benefits that sound has to offer.

“For example, the organic sounds of running water, birds, wildlife and children laughing can distract from or override unwanted noises, such as traffic and roadworks, leaving residents feeling calm, productive and positive. In this way, soundscape is about using carefully considered natural acoustics to create an immersive and pleasant acoustic environment for all.”

Although the first two noise policy aims of the Noise Policy Statement for England (March 2010) dictate the need to avoid, mitigate and minimise adverse impacts on health and quality of life, the final aim mandates that, where possible, development should contribute to the improvement of those parameters – with soundscape offering a key route to addressing this.

At the same time, various studies continue to link noise pollution to increased anxiety, depression and other medical conditions. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that at least 1M healthy life-years are lost every year in western European countries because of environmental noise.

Richard adds: “It’s a time of great change for UK infrastructure as we look to tackle the ongoing issues of air pollution, resource dependency, emissions reductions, and the like – at this stage of transition then, we’d suggest it’s an apt opportunity for businesses and organisations alike to begin to seek to improve their acoustic environment at the same time.

“Asides from the primary benefits of enhanced health and wellbeing, commercial benefits include increased value of assets and development as properties with good soundscape are likely to sell quicker, whilst poor soundscapes in retail zones may discourage footfall - while it can also aid wide noise pollution and biodiversity efforts. Plus, while we await outcome of Wales’ soundscape drive to come to fruition, the reality is that it is more than likely that this innovative new approach will eventually be adopted nationwide, as the research evidence builds.”

Bureau Veritas’ expert Acoustics and Vibration Group is home to a range of consultants able to offer developed technical assessment methodologies that can translate soundscape value into a quantifiable asset, but that cannot be achieved in isolation.

To find out more about Bureau Veritas’ services or to discuss individual requirements with a member of the team, call 0345 600 1828 or click / tap below to contact us.