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EA survey: 95% of environmental noise reports are inadequate

Peter Wilson INVC Technical Director

Posted on: Nov. 7, 2023

Institute of Acoustics (IOA) conference: October 2023

Noise report quality: 60% extremely poor, 30% very poor, 5% poor. Total 95%

Julija Smyrnowa of the Environment Agency (EA) gave a paper on BS4142. She also reported the results of an EA survey on the quality of the noise reports they get from acoustic consultants. Figures as above.

And lo, at that moment, (ironically) a deathly hush fell upon the room full of IOA consultants. Why am I not surprised? Because...


In 2019 I gave a paper at the CIEH conference entitled "Why are noise consultant reports inadequate". Due to "political" pressure, the title was changed at the last minute to "Noise consultant reports: current best practice approaches" because "some of our colleagues in the industry mention to us that ‘most noise consultants’ is quite a generalisation and perhaps not the sort of message we should be saying, quite so strongly."


I commented on the title change at the start of my presentation and said that, from the many reports we see, we estimate that around 80% of the consultant noise reports were inadequate and should be returned to sender. The session chair suggested I shouldn't say that, as many reports were "fine". So I asked the audience of EHOs for their opinion. Some disagreed quite strongly. They declared that 80% was too low, that it was 90% or more... A spookily accurate correlation with the EA data...

And even more previously...

At the CIEH conference in 2014, I presented "The Environmental Noise Industry is Not Fit for Purpose…" highlighting what we consider to be the general woeful lack of knowledge about noise diagnostic techniques and modern noise control technology within the industry.

And the consequences are?


  • Health: environmental noise is a serious health hazard. It can cause early death. As a direct result of poor noise reports, many people are needlessly exposed to stressful environmental noise for extended periods. Problems that should have been resolved quickly are delayed for months or years - or are never satisfactorily resolved.
  • Regulator resources: EA staff and EHOs waste considerable time and valuable resources dealing with the consequences of poor reporting.
  • Industry: fortunes are wasted on ineffective or unnecessarily costly noise control measures recommended in noise reports due to poor (or no) diagnosis and inadequate knowledge of modern noise control technology.

I've been involved in noise for a very long time and have become increasingly frustrated by the poor quality of reports and by the lack of knowledge of the advances in noise control since the Victorians. For example:

  • stress: when a noise complainant is in tears because they haven't had a good night's sleep for 3 years when it should have been sorted within a few months.
  • cost: when you have to suggest to a small company that they should sue the consultant who recommended noise control measures costing many £thousands - despite it being totally obvious they couldn't possibly be effective and that a <£2k fix would have sorted the problem.
  • wasted time: when an EHO calls you for help as they've been back to the same site time after time trying to resolve an issue created by a report that misdiagnosed the problem (2 emailed smartphone videos + 30 minutes and it was resolved).

How do we solve this problem?

I've trained EA staff and EHOs, not to mention consultants and industry, in diagnosis and mitigation best practice. Sadly, however, this is an industry predicated largely on measurement - and not just on measurement, but also on measurement... And, far too often, measurements that lack key information. Actually diagnosing and solving noise problems quickly and cost-effectively seems to be very much a secondary consideration.


Having released my frustrations on this topic into the wild, I can now lie down in a darkened (and quiet) room for a while...

Peter Wilson

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