The European Parliament and Council Directive for Assessment and Management of Environmental Noise 2002/49/ EC, more commonly referred to as the 'European Noise Directive' hereinafter referred to as END was adopted in 2004 and requires Member States to bring about measures " intended to avoid, prevent or reduce on a prioritised basis the harmful effects, including annoyance, due to exposure to environmental noise".
The existence of the legislation and the work to produce and deliver the strategic noise maps and associated action plans reflects that noise can have a significant effect on the quality of life for communities and individuals. As such this work delivers a number of benefits for communities and individuals, the perception of Scotland as a place to visit and do business; we live in well designed, sustainable places where we are able to access the amenities and services we need. This helps support the Government's purpose of delivering sustainable economic growth.
The Directive was transposed into Scottish legislation with the Environmental Noise (Scotland) Regulations 2006. These regulations set out two key tasks for managing environmental noise:
- Production of strategic noise maps for major roads, rail, airports and industry; and
- Development of Noise Action Plans ( NAPs) to manage noise.
The city of Edinburgh and parts of neighbouring Local Authorities falls within the definition of 'agglomeration' as given in the END. (The Directive defines 'agglomerations' as urbanised areas with a population exceeding 100,000). It is a requirement of the Directive that noise exposure levels are mapped and managed within agglomeration boundaries and that certain information is made available to the public.
Edinburgh is one of four agglomerations in Scotland (together with Dundee, Glasgow and Aberdeen). This action plan for Edinburgh is therefore intended to form part of the Scottish Government's response to the requirements of the Environmental Noise Directive.
The Scottish Government is committed to understanding and managing environmental impacts. The Scottish Government acknowledge that noise can be distressing; affects our quality of life; and can impact on our health and environment. Attitudes to noise are changing and it has been suggested that people are becoming less tolerant of their noise environment. The assessment of noise and noise annoyance is a complex process and different noise sources affect people in different ways. Whilst the WHO (2011)  concluded that there is sufficient evidence from large-scale epidemiological studies linking the population's exposure to environmental noise with adverse health effects at specific health end points, others suggest such effects may occur only in a susceptible minority of the population. The issue of health effects and noise is an ongoing area of research. Recent research suggests that annoyance and sleep disturbance may be the most significant impacts of noise.