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Quiet Brussels: a new ‘noise plan’ for Brussels-Capital Region

By Michiel Modijefsky / Updated: 11 Sep 2018

Road traffic noise pollution negatively affects one in two inhabitants of Brussels. This was one of the main conclusions of study by Leefmilieu Brussel, the Brussels Environment Administration, that was published last year. Environment Minister Céline Fremault for the Brussels-Capital Region will present a plan in mid-September, called “Quiet Brussels” to fight increasing noise pollution.

The minister announced the plan in Le Soir on 30 August 2018. Contrary to the recommendations of a European directive of 2002, the last regional noise plan dates from 2009 and should have been renewed in 2014.

Environment Minister Céline Fremault stated: "This issue has never been a major concern in Brussels. People are also unaware of the risks they incur by being exposed to noise. Sleep disorders, hypertension, increased heart rate, hearing problems, increased stress, ... the health and quality of life issues are too important when we are (over) exposed to noise” Fremault posted on facebook.

Overexposure to noise

Noise pollution maps by Brussels Environment Administration show that the positioning of road traffic, planes and trains expose large parts of the Brussels Region to considerable noise. By day, some 431 000 people (36 % of the population) are exposed to "very high noise" levels - from 65 to over 75 dB (A). This includes 31 % of homes, 18 % of schools and 20 % of hospitals. At night, 103 800 people are still affected by very noisy levels.

Such overexposure to noise poses health risks and reduces cognitive performance. According to World Health Organisation (WHO) sleep disturbance is one of the most serious effects of environmental noise, causing both immediate effects and next-day and long-term effects on mental and cardiovascular health. According to WHO/Europe’s guidelines, annual average night exposure should not exceed 40 decibels (dB), corresponding to the sound from a quiet street in a residential area. Persons exposed to higher levels over the year can suffer mild health effects, such as sleep disturbance and insomnia. Long-term average exposure to levels above 55 dB, similar to the noise from a busy street, can trigger elevated blood pressure and heart attacks.

Nearly half of Brussels residents feel the effects of noise on their health, according to the results of a survey conducted in 2017 by the Brussels Environment Administration of 1 500 people. In seven out of ten cases, people complain of sleep problems, but also hypertension and stress (49 %) and a general reduction in well-being (42 %).

“Quiet Brussels”

In order to counter these environmental noise problems, the new noise plan “Quiet Brussels” that has been announced proposes several measures, including support for quieter public and private transport fleets; the extension of limited speed zones, especially near schools and hospitals; increased use of more quite road pavement and the promotion of the use of acoustic insulators in construction and renovation of buildings.

The plan distinguishes two types of area for particular focus: “black spot” areas and “comfort zones”. In the black spots noise levels are becoming problematic. These are often areas with high and increasing population densities, as well as increasing noise levels. The comfort zones on the other hand, are areas with limited noise levels (average below 55 dB (A)), such as forests and parks that should be preserved and extended. According to the plan, it will be required that future new neighborhoods include a zone of sufficient tranquility.

The new plan does not include measures to reduce congestion or to manage mobility. These kind of measures will form part of the regional mobility plan is currently under development through a participatory process, called ‘Good Move’.

The ‘Quiet Brussels’- plan will be presented in full in Brussels regional parliament later this month.

Image source: © grmarc/ Shutterstock.com - no permission to re-use image(s) without separate licence from Shutterstock

Sources: 

Le Soir.be: http://www.lesoir.be/175670/article/2018-08-30/un-plan-pour-limiter-le-bruit-bruxelles

Environment Brussels: https://leefmilieu.brussels/themas/geluid/de-toestand-brussel/geluidskaarten-en-blootstelling-van-de-bevolking/lawaai-van-het-1

and

Environment Brussels: http://document.environnement.brussels/opac_css/elecfile/Geluid%201

Country: 
Belgium
Topic: 
Policy and research
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