Along with traffic, commercial activities and licensed venues, both the construction and transport industries are subject to noise restrictions which protect the wellbeing of residents and land users. The construction industry in particular has been experiencing a boom across both residential and non-residential sectors in certain Australian cities over the past decade and, as always, the associated noise is a significant concern to local councils during these times. Construction-related noise, including demolition, maintenance and building works account for the second largest environmental noise issue for most cities (second only to commercial activity) and is tightly regulated is most regions.
However, it is the noise related to the road and rail networks – and how this interferes with urban development – that have come under scrutiny by the Western Australian government this year.
Unearthing a workable balance between urban development (namely the construction sector) and transport, to the benefit of both industries, is the primary objective of a policy overhaul to State Planning Policy 5.4 pertaining to road and rail noise. It has been suggested that the current legislation is somewhat unclear and complex, causing issue for both the building sector and the transport industry.
Construction activities are likely to be affected by the latest policy revision of the policy, which was announced just last month. Open to submissions until December 15, revisions to the original 2009 policy guidelines aim to better align planning and development proposals with major road and rail networks, such as Western Australia’s Metronet, in order to simplify the approval and compliance processes.
According to a press release by Transport and Planning Minister, Rita Saffioti, the proposed changes hope to:
- Simplify the noise criteria and assessment process
- Provide new noise exposure categories that correspond with quiet house design requirements (such as building orientation, window glazing and insulation)
- Provide standardised templates for noise management plans, local planning scheme provisions and notifications on titles
State Planning Policy 5.4 applies broadly to new residential developments within 60 – 300 metres from a specified (existing or proposed) transport corridor.
The State and Logistics Council of Western Australia have made commentary on the existing policy in the past:
“The operations of freight rail and road corridors can be adversely impacted by urban encroachment. Strategic land use planning and development proposals in close proximity to corridors must consider and comprehensively address both current and forecasted freight activity,” noted their December 2014 bulletin.
“Without this occurring, there is a risk it could lead to operational restrictions on freight movements, which plays a fundamental role for our State’s industry and the economy. The effective implementation of SPP 5.4 is therefore critical.”
Protecting the state’s current and future road and rail corridors, while encouraging much-needed urban development is critical to the growth and expansion of the state into the future. Thanks to new housing design which better insulates dwellings against noise, it is expected that amendments to the policy will loosen current restrictions on the development of road and rail networks occurring in close proximity to urban developments.