Publication - FOI/EIR release

M74 noise levels and Scottish Government guidelines: EIR release

Published: 25 Mar 2019

Information request and response under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004.

Published:
25 Mar 2019
M74 noise levels and Scottish Government guidelines: EIR release
FOI reference: FOI/19/00567
Date received: 22 Feb 2019
Date responded: 22 Mar 2019
Information requested

 

I am aware of work undertaken last year regarding M74 noise levels and there was no difficulty in having the tests carried out and written up. I find it most odd indeed that it will take until May 2019 to have this work completed. Is there any explanation for this? Also can I have a copy of the results when available.

Whilst the noise in the pre M74 upgrade Env Report was rounded down to 60 decibels the actual level was 61.9 decibels. This is almost 7 decibels over approved Scottish Government levels and almost 12 decibels over NLC’s guidelines regarding same. Is it still the case that,

1 the Scottish Government’s guidelines for acceptable noise levels of this type is 55 decibels

And

2 that 61.9 decibels exceeds the tolerance levels permitted by the Scottish Government guidelines on noise?

 

Response

 

For clarity I have responded to each of your queries in turn as follows:

 

I am aware of work undertaken last year regarding M74 noise levels and there was no difficulty in having the tests carried out and written up. I find it most odd indeed that it will take until May 2019 to have this work completed. Is there any explanation for this? Also can I have a copy of the results when available.

An exception under regulation 10(4)(d) of the EIRs (unfinished or incomplete information) applies to all of the information you have requested because it is material which is still in the course of completion. The year 1 Noise Assessment for the project commenced in July 2018 and is currently ongoing. It may be useful to explain that there are 42 receptors to be visited across the project area. Obtaining measurements is dependent on weather conditions such as road surfaces being dry in the measurement area and wind speeds at the time of measurement. Our contractor, Scottish Roads Partnership (SRP), plans to have the Year 1 noise assessment completed by May 2019. With the 5-year assessment being planned for May 2023 (5 years after the commencement of the year 1 assessment).

It is intended that this report will be made public, once complete, through our website.

This exception is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. We recognise that there is some public interest in release as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and this will be met by our planned publication later this year. However, this is outweighed by the public interest in ensuring that unfinished or incomplete information which is still in being worked on is not disclosed when it might misinform the public on the matter to which the information relates.

 

Is it still the case that, 1. the Scottish Government’s guidelines for acceptable noise levels of this type is 55 decibels and

2. that 61.9 decibels exceeds the tolerance levels permitted by the Scottish Government guidelines on noise?

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested. Therefore we are refusing your request under the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs. The reasons why that exception applies are explained in the Annex to this letter.

It may however be useful to add that in relation to planning applications the choice of appropriate criteria noise levels and relevant time periods is the responsibility of the appropriate local authority, allowing local circumstances to be taken into account and the use of the latest guideline values to be included where appropriate. For developments adjacent to trunk roads, the relevant local authority will have direct responsibility in relation to planning legislation and noise mitigation requirements, however Transport Scotland are also consulted where applications impact on network operation. For applications near trunk roads such as the M74, the assessment of noise would follow the details in Planning Advice Note 1/2011: planning and noise, and the related Technical Advice Note. These documents refer to the then World Health Organisation (WHO) precautionary guideline noise levels, 55 L Aeq,16h for day and 45 L Aeq,8h for night, and note that the choice of appropriate criteria noise levels and relevant time periods is the responsibility of the appropriate local authority.

WHO amended their advice in relation to noise thresholds on 10 October 2018. These guidelines are non-statutory, however they are the basis for a policy-making process in which a number of considerations will be relevant to choosing a noise limit. Given the breadth of the scope of the guidelines it is reasonable to expect a wider consultation exercise will be required with other stakeholders for which this may have implications.

We recognise the opportunity for continuous development of these planning and design processes, and as part of the Transportation Noise Action Plan (TNAP) Transport Scotland has committed to championing the consideration of noise mitigation into local authority development control (planning) process and periodically review transportation appraisal process.

 

The Scottish Government does not have the information

Under the terms of the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs (information not held), the Scottish Government is not required to provide information which it does not have. The Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested because there are no permitted ‘tolerance levels’ specified by the Scottish Government.

This exception is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. While we recognise that there may be some public interest in information about noise tolerance levels, clearly we cannot provide information which we do not hold.

 

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Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
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