White paper launched on control of neighbourhood noise

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White paper launched on control of neighbourhood noiseThe Ministry for Tourism, Culture and the Environment has launched for public consultation the White Paper on the Prevention, Abatement and Control of Neighbourhood Noise.

Launching the white paper, Minister Mario de Marco said that whilst considering the EU obligations on noise, the white paper goes a step further and includes local considerations. Mario de Marco said that the issue of noise featured prominently as a public concern in submissions received in the process of formulating the National Environment Policy, and this is a clear signal that the problem of excessive noise must be addressed.

Minister de Marco stated that excessive noise can have a detrimental impact not only on our health and quality of life, but also on the state of the environment, including the health of biodiversity and ecosystems. He said that noise is a form of pollution, and therefore Government has embarked on an exercise to review and improve the legal system and institutional arrangements to better control the problem of excessive noise.

The white paper aims to stimulate public debate on the issue to assist the government in formulating, and eventually implementing measures to improve the present legal and institutional framework for the control of various forms of excessive noise, including noise from transport, places of entertainment, one off events, industrial or construction activities, or noise within neighbourhoods.

An assessment performed by The Head of Department of Environmental Law at the University of Malta, Dr. Simone Borg revealed that the current legal framework related to noise control is fragmented and the responsibility for regulating various aspects of noise is shared amongst several institutions.

Speaking during the launch of the white paper, Dr. Borg highlighted the fact that with a few exceptions, objective noise level thresholds for neighbourhood noise are largely absent from noise- related legislation, and this makes it difficult for those who suffer from excessive noise to prove the fact of nuisance in court. It is for this reason that the white paper stresses the need for a preventive, apart from a remedial, approach.

Amongst other recommendations, the white paper proposes new legislation for the control of neighbourhood noise, as well as the introduction of objective noise level thresholds based on World Health Organisation guidelines. The paper also proposes arrangements for improving enforcement, coordination amongst the authorities, harmonisation and the mainstreaming of noise-related issues in regulatory tools such as permitting. It also proposes the establishment of a customer care helpline for noise-related issues.

The White Paper may be downloaded from the following website: http://www.tsdu.gov.mt/noise. Questions and suggestions with respect to the draft White Paper can be emailed to noise.mtce@gov.mt. Consultation will close on the 15th of April 2012.

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