Scourge of urban noise

TIME was when noise nuisance in Ireland was generally created by that dreaded dog which never stopped barking in an area, or the busy, inconsiderate neighbour who insisted on working machinery late at night, writes Donal Hickey

Scourge of urban noise

Now, noise pollution from myriad sources has become a chronic problem. Even if you live in the heart of the countryside, it’s hard to get away from it.

Birdsong and the cries and shrieks of other animals are often drowned out by an assortment of traffic and a changed way of life.

In urban areas, there can be extra noise from nightclubs, while chippers are often blamed for leading people to hang around the streets into the small hours, with boisterous revellers keeping residents awake.

People seem compelled to have noise around them all the time. In many houses, the radio or television is switched on continuously, cars are moving non-stop outside, making it almost impossible to experience peaceful silence any more.

Cork County Council recently admitted to being snowed under with complaints about noise from the public and says it doesn’t have enough people to enforce regulations controlling noise.

The removal of trees along the Cork to Midleton road and the M8, in Glanmire, has worsened noise problems, while people living by the Cork to Ringaskiddy road can no longer leave their windows open for that reason.

And god help people living by the M50 in Dublin.

Thankfully, there are still a few remote areas where only a hum of distant noise can be heard.

I decamp, occasionally, to a deserted bogland (hush, hush) with only singing skylarks for company.

Experts say we need more quiet areas, free from manmade noise. The EPA says this is especially important in cities and towns which need parks, nature sanctuaries and other areas of tranquillity.

According to the World Health Organisation, noise is the second greatest environmental cause of health problems, after air quality.

Too much noise harms human and animal health, disturbs sleep, causes high blood pressure and leads to heart disease and stroke. The EU found it results in more than 40,000 hospital admissions annually.

In Ireland, the main legislation is the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992, which defines environmental pollution as including noise that is a nuisance, or that would endanger human health or damage property or the environment.

Local authorities have powers under the Act to prevent or limit noise but, as we see in Cork, they often don’t have the resources.

If you have a barking dog problem, the advice is to try to deal with it by talking to the owner before making a formal complaint, which could end up in court.

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