Soundscape represents a paradigm shift from noise control policies towards a new multidisciplinary approach as it involves not only physical measurements but also humans and social sciences with a focus on how people actually experience an acoustic environment in context.
Soundscape is defined as ‘the acoustic environment as perceived or experienced by and/or understood by a person or people, in context. Much has been debated in recent years about exactly what ‘context’ is in the light of BS4142:2014. In soundscape the context is meant as the physical place where the acoustic environment exists, and according to the ISO definition it ‘includes the interrelationship between person and activity and place and time and may influence soundscape through the auditory sensation, the interpretation of auditory sensation, and the response to the acoustic environment.
In March 2012 the Department for Communities and Local Government replaced over a thousand pages of national policy with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The NPPF was some fifty pages and left a vast vacuum in that it did not contain any objective numbers. What it did contain was a clear statement as to what planning policies should aim to achieve.
In the NPPF, at paragraph 123, the fourth aim is stated as:
“identify and protect areas of tranquillity which have remained relatively undisturbed by noise and are prized for their recreational and amenity value for this reason.”
Whilst this is clearly a desirable objective there is no guidance on how to identify, let alone protect, these areas of tranquillity.
PDA Ltd can conduct surveys in full accordance with the ISO 12913 series of standards. When local authorities are faced with an application to develop what may be an area of ‘tranquillity’ then a Soundscape survey by PDA Ltd will provide the evidence as to whether the area is an area of tranquillity and must be protected. Alternatively, it may show that the area is not tranquil and may be developed.
This provides local authorities with certainty about their decisions on planning issues.