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Planning applications: reducing noise and other pollutants

Date updated: 22/03/2023

The Pollution Team will help an applicant understand the potential environmental impacts of a development proposal and advise on how they can be minimised. As noise is the most common one, it forms the main part of the following advice. 

Environmental Health impacts include:

  • Noise
  • Air quality
  • Odour nuisance from food preparation and sewers
  • Drainage
  • Contaminated Land

Go to the Planning area of the website for information on the planning process. A planning application involving a change of use or a new development must take account of environmental health impacts.

The City of London Corporation encourages pre-application discussions with the Planning Team and with the Pollution Control Team where there is a possibility that the proposed development will have environmental health impacts.

The planning Case Officer will consult the Pollution Control Team to identify issues early so that suitable measures can be incorporated in the design before the application is submitted.

The City Corporation has a number of policies which apply to these impacts which need to be addressed during the planning process. The City of London Corporate Plan, Local Plan, Air Quality Strategy, Noise Strategies and the Code of Practice for Deconstruction and Construction sites will need to be considered.

Noise impact assessment

On receipt of a development proposal the planning Case Officer and the Pollution Team will consider whether noise problems may arise from the development. Typical developments with noise implications are:

  • Major redevelopment: demolition and construction, noise from redevelopment, servicing, plant and equipment.
  • Use as restaurants, cafes, licensed premises: noise from people, music, plant and equipment and servicing,
  • New residential development: noise from traffic and other uses nearby.

Development proposals that raise issues of disturbance or are considered to be in a noise sensitive area should be supported by a Noise Impact Assessment prepared by an acoustic consultant. Complex or large scale applications will also need a Noise Impact Assessment. Noise issues will be addressed using conditions attached to the planning permission.

Plant and equipment

The level of noise emitted from any new plant shall be lower than the existing background level by at least 10 dBA. Noise levels shall be determined at one metre from the window of the nearest noise sensitive premises. The measurements and assessments shall be made in accordance with B.S. 4142. The background noise level shall be expressed as the lowest LA90 (10 minutes) during which plant is or may be in operation. Following installation but before the new plant comes into operation measurements of noise from the new plant must be taken and a report demonstrating that the plant as installed meets the design requirements shall be submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority.

Problems associated with nuisance odour and noise emissions from commercial kitchen exhausts are very common, particularly in the City where housing and offices may be adjacent to or even immediately above catering premises. These premises might include pubs, clubs, restaurants and takeaways that may be open until the early hours of the morning.

Guidance is available for the assessment of odour and specific guidance on best practice for the minimisation of odour and noise nuisance from kitchen exhaust systems and will be of use prior to the submission of any application.

The Institute of Air Quality Management provides guidance on the assessment of odour for planning (2014 Odour Guidance) and EMAQ (Control of Odour and Noise from Commercial Kitchen Exhaust Systems) provides useful advice.

Some complex or large scale developments may require a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). These developments are defined in the Town and Country Planning (Assessment of Environmental Effects) Regulations 1999 and the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011. Any EIA must include references to the noise impact of the proposal.

Other large and medium scale developments will often employ a professional acoustic consultant to provide advice on noise issues.

Smaller scale projects, e.g. a shop installing an air conditioning unit, where there may not be a budget to employ an acoustic consultant, will need to assess, as far as possible, any likely impact from noise on the surrounding community. In this example, the following could be considered and included as part of the application

  • hours of operation of the air conditioning unit
  • location of the nearest noise sensitive premises
  • the noise output of the air conditioning unit to be installed (manufacturers will supply this data)
  • acoustic treatments to be used, e.g. anti-vibration mounting, acoustic enclosures
  • any other relevant information that would help support the application and provide evidence that the project is not going to have a detrimental impact on the surrounding community.

If the proposal involves a change of use of a commercial premises or a change in the hours of operation for a business, you may need to consider the following as part of your application:

  • Change of use - if in changing the use of the business there is likely to be a change in the noise arising from the business, e.g. a retail unit turning into a bar, you will need to consider this in your application and include details of any potential noise control measures, e.g. improvements to sound insulation, noise limiters, lobby doors, double glazing, noise management plan.
  • Change in the hours of operation - you will need to check whether there are any conditions relating to the hours of operation on the current planning permission. If there are restrictions on the hours of operation and you plan to open beyond this you will need to submit an application to vary the condition. You should be aware that the community will be more sensitive to noise between 11pm-7am and additional control measures may be required if the new business will be producing noise during this period. This needs to be addressed in the planning application.

The City Corporation will make a decision on the planning application either by the Planning and Transportation Committee or under delegated authority. Some planning permissions may be granted with conditions.

The Pollution Team may make a recommendation that if planning permission were to be granted it should contain conditions relating to noise control to mitigate any noise impact on the community.

You can check for any existing conditions that relate to a particular premises within the City on the Planning Portal.