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Environmental Noise Directive

Directive 2002/49/EC  relating to the assessment and management of environmental noise (the Environmental Noise Directive – END) is the main EU instrument to identify noise pollution levels and to trigger the necessary action both at Member State and at EU level.

To pursue its stated aims, the Environmental Noise Directive focuses on three action areas:

  • the determination of exposure to environmental noise
  • ensuring that information on environmental noise and its effects is made available to the public
  • preventing and reducing environmental noise where necessary and preserving environmental noise quality where it is good

The Directive applies to noise to which humans are exposed, particularly in built-up areas, in public parks or other quiet areas in an agglomeration, in quiet areas in open country, near schools, hospitals and other noise-sensitive buildings and areas. It does not apply to noise that is caused by the exposed person himself, noise from domestic activities, noise created by neighbours, noise at work places or noise inside means of transport or due to military activities in military areas.

The Directive requires Member States to prepare and publish, every 5 years, noise maps and noise management action plans for:

  • agglomerations with more than 100,000 inhabitants
  • major roads (more than 3 million vehicles a year)
  • major railways (more than 30.000 trains a year)
  • major airports (more than 50.000 movements a year, including small aircrafts and helicopters)

When developing noise management action plans, Member States' authorities are required to consult the concerned public.

Member States' noise maps and action plans can also be consulted in the European Environment Agency's ReportNet  system, by selecting: the Member State arrow EU obligations arrow Environmental Noise Directive arrow Noise maps/Action plans.

It is important to note, however, that the Directive does not set limit or target values, nor does it prescribe the measures to be included in the action plans, thus leaving those issues at the discretion of the competent Member State authorities.

In implementing the Directive, the European Commission is supported by the Noise Regulatory Committee and the Noise Expert Group, as well as the European Environment Agency.