Noise Mapping England

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Frequently Asked Questions

Noise Mapping general

What is noise?

Noise is unwanted sound. It is subjective - what is noisy for one person may not bother someone else. Noise is measured in decibels on a logarithmic scale (such that a doubling of sound energy equates to a 3 decibel increase). The Glossary of Noise Terms in the Help section gives examples of relative decibel levels of some common noises.

What is a noise map?

A noise map is rather like a weather map for noise but it shows areas which are relatively louder or quieter. Just as a weather map might have isobars joining points of equal air pressure, a noise map can have contours joining points having the same noise level.

What are the noise maps for?

Noise maps have two main purposes. Firstly, they can be used to provide information on noise levels that can be linked to population data to estimate how many people are affected. This leads to the second use - and the main point of noise mapping - to help in the production of noise action plans to manage noise and reduce noise levels where appropriate.

How were the maps made?

The noise maps have been made using computer modelling techniques, based on information such as traffic flow data, road/rail type, and vehicle type data. No actual noise measurements have been made in the production of these strategic maps. The modelling, where necessary, also took account of features which affect the spread of noise such as buildings and the shape of the ground (e.g. earth mounds), and whether the ground is acoustically absorbent (e.g. fields) or reflective ( e.g. concrete or water). The calculations produced noise level results on a 10m grid at a receptor height of 4m above ground, as required by the END and the Regulations.

The data required for the calculations of noise levels have been collated in liaison with various organisations including the Department for Transport, Highways Agency, Network Rail, various airport operators, and the Environment Agency.

How accurate are the maps?

The noise maps have been produced for use at a strategic level and give an acceptable level of accuracy for these purposes. They will not however necessarily properly represent the situation at a local level and the results of the noise mapping should not be used alone for any land use planning or location-specific assessments.

Who has produced the noise maps?

The maps for road, rail and industry have been produced by Defra on behalf of the Secretary of State. Airport maps were produced by the relevant airport operators.

Defra assembled, via open competition and existing contractual agreements, a team of expert companies to work in the production of the maps and the calculation of population exposure. Please see the Contact Us section for a list of the main partners involved in the mapping process.

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Noise Maps published on this site

What noise mapping has been undertaken?

As required by the Environmental Noise (England) Regulations 2006, in this first round of mapping, maps have been produced for major roads which have more than six million vehicle passages a year, major railways which have more than 60,000 train passages a year, major airports with more than 50,000 movements, excluding training on light aircraft, and transport sources and major industrial sites in first round agglomerations (with a population of more than 250,000 and a certain population density).

For the second round of mapping in 2012, in addition to re-mapping the areas covered in the first round, roads having more than 3 million vehicle passages per year and railways with more than 30,000 train passages per year are to be mapped. All agglomerations with a population of over 100,000 will also be mapped. The actual roads, railways and agglomerations to be mapped in the second round will be subject to confirmation based on the most up to date data available at the time.

Does this site include noise maps for the whole of the UK?

This site includes maps for England only. To see maps for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland please visit the websites listed under Useful Information.

Do noise maps show how noisy it is where I live?

In accordance with the disclaimer that must be accepted before a map search can be carried out (and which is also present on the downloadable maps), the maps are only intended to be used for strategic assessment of noise levels in any given area. They should not be used to attempt to determine, represent or imply precisely the noise levels at individual locations (e.g. individual houses, windows). It should also be borne in mind that the noise levels shown are for an average day in the year, and therefore do not show the specific noise from individual vehicles, trains, or aircraft or from discrete industrial activities.

What is an agglomeration?

A first round agglomeration as defined by the Environmental Noise (England) Regulations is a large urban area with a population of over 250,000 and a population density of more than 500 persons per square kilometre. The first round agglomerations mapped are:

  • Birkenhead
  • Blackpool
  • Bournemouth
  • Brighton
  • Bristol
  • Coventry
  • Hull
  • Leicester
  • Liverpool
  • London
  • Manchester
  • Nottingham
  • Portsmouth
  • Preston
  • Reading
  • Sheffield
  • Southampton
  • Southend
  • Teeside
  • The Potteries
  • Tyneside
  • West Midlands
  • West Yorkshire

You can see maps showing the extent of the agglomerations, as defined by The Environmental Noise (Identification of Noise Sources)(England) Regulations 2007, here. Please note the agglomerations do not match local authority boundaries.

Why are some maps being published as PDFs?

The maps for major roads and railways outside of agglomerations are currently available as PDFs only because the END and hence the Environmental Noise (England) Regulations require noise from major road and rail routes only outside of agglomerations to be mapped. It is an inevitable feature of the maps that they may not show for any particular location, the total noise exposure from either roads or railways. This is because there may be other roads/railways in the vicinity of the particular location which have not been taken into account because they do not meet the traffic threshold set out in the END and the Regulations.

Therefore, to avoid presenting potentially misleading information, these maps are available only in PDF format.

Are the airport maps the same as published on other websites?

The END requires the maps to represent the annual average values. It is common practice in the UK to produce aircraft noise contours for an average summer's day based on the 16 hour period between 0700 and 2300. Summer is measured as a period between mid June and mid September. In addition the Regulations require the use of additional parameters, Lday (07.00 - 19.00), Levening (19.00 - 23.00), Lnight (23.00 - 07.00), and Lden, as well as the LAeq,16h but all based on an annual average day .

The results published here are for an average day over an entire year, in this case 2006. Thus there is likely to be a difference between the results for an average day in the summer period (which for most airports is the busiest) and an average day in a year.

It has also been found that the Lden indicator tends to produce larger contours than the corresponding LAeq,16h indicator. This is because the noise which occurs in the evening (1900 - 2300) and at night (2300 - 0700) attracts an artificial weighting of 5 dB and 10 dB added respectively before being combined to produce the Lden.

Given the difference in parameters, it is not possible to draw any meaningful conclusions from a comparison between the END maps and the annual summer contours for the foreseeable future.

It must be noted that these strategic noise maps have been produced only for the purposes of the Environmental Noise (England) Regulations 2006. Defra cannot be held responsible for any outcomes that may arise from the use of these results by any party for any reason other than for the purpose stated here.

For each airport, two maps are shown, depicting the results in terms of the Lden, and Lnight. There is one exception, Shoreham, where only an Lden map is shown as there were no night time activities at that airport in 2006. Please see the glossary of noise terms in the Help section for further explanation of the indicators described above.

Were all the road noise maps for the agglomerations produced in the same way?

Yes, with the exception of London, which was mapped separately as part of an initial pilot project for mapping the rest of England. Although the results obtained are not on the same basis as the other agglomerations, they still present an adequate picture of the strategic noise levels in relation to the roads mapped and both methodologies fulfil the requirements of the Environmental Noise (England) Regulations and END.

Why do some noise contours appear to be cropped?

This is an issue confined primarily to rail and industry maps, and is related to the base mapping on which the contours are superimposed. The apparent cropping of noise contours at certain locations occurs at the edge of an agglomeration (where the mapping itself ends), but because the agglomeration edge is not clearly marked on the map it may appear as though the contour has been incorrectly cropped. It was decided not to include the agglomeration boundary on the base mapping used for the rail and industry maps to avoid any potential confusion with other cartographical features.

The following screenshots are intended to explain this issue. The first shows an apparently cropped noise contour from an industry map in the Manchester agglomeration. The second shows the same contour with the agglomeration edge clearly defined, thus showing the cause of the cropping.

Example Industry Cropped Example Agglomeration Boundary
How is Population Exposure calculated?

Population exposure figures are calculated by firstly statistically assigning census output area data to buildings in the mapped area (rather than precisely determining the number of people living in each building). A count is then made of number of people falling in each noise band calculated. All population exposure figures are rounded to the nearest 100 people, in accordance with the requirements of the END.

What is the currency of the maps?

The maps on this site represent a snapshot of the environmental noise situation in England for 2006, as required by the Environmental Noise Directive and English Regulations. The Regulations require that noise maps be produced again in 2012 (for the year 2011), and every five years thereafter.

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Noise Mapping and Action Plans

How will action plans be developed?

The Environmental Noise Directive requires Member States to develop and adopt action plans 'designed to manage noise issues and effects, including noise reduction if necessary'. The action plans will be developed following a consultation process involving Local Authorities, other Government Departments and other interested bodies and members of the general public.

What will action plans contain?

The Environmental Noise Directive has set out requirements for action plans. These include:

  • a description of the agglomeration, the major roads, the major railways or major airports and other noise sources being taken into account in the plan
  • a summary of the results of the noise mapping
  • an evaluation of the estimated number of people exposed to noise, and identification of problems that need to be improved
  • any noise reduction measures already in force and any projects in preparation
  • actions to be taken in the next five years
  • a long term strategy

It is envisaged that action plans will identify relevant measures (both existing and new) to manage environmental noise from the sources mapped. Such measures could range from over-arching national strategies which take noise into account, to local targeted measures designed primarily to address a specific noise issue. The plans will also include some form of cost-benefit assessment of measures, to ensure their sustainability, and estimates of the reduction of the number of people affected by excessive noise as a result of the proposed measures.

What about quiet areas?

The Environmental Noise Directive makes specific reference to paying attention to 'quiet areas' in agglomerations that may be discernable from the noise maps, and requires Member States to identify and where possible protect quiet areas. Defra commissioned a research project to assist in the process of defining quiet areas in urban areas. This report is being studied with a view to formulating a policy on defining quiet areas in England.

What are consolidated noise maps?

Consolidated maps show a summation of the total noise from all sources mapped in an agglomeration - road, rail, aircraft and industry - on a single noise map. The consolidated maps are being produced by a simple logarithmic sum of the separate calculated noise levels for each source.

Defra intends to publish consolidated noise maps for agglomerations to compliment single source maps. The results from consolidated maps should not be used alone to develop action plans, but instead should be used alongside the single source maps.

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Noise general

For explanation of what some standard noise terms mean, please see the Glossary of terms in the Help section.

Why not measure the noise?

The European Commission's advisory group on environmental noise recommended that Member States use computer modelling rather than measurements.

There are several technical and practical reasons why noise maps are normally produced using computer predictions rather than from actual noise measurements. To produce a map based on measurements would require many measurements to be taken over long periods and this would have been prohibitively expensive. In most cases, the noise at a location is produced by a combination of different sources not all of which are required by the Regulations to be included. Furthermore, it is usually not possible to distinguish the contribution from each of the different sources as required by the Regulations. Hence it is not possible to use noise measurements to provide the results required by the Regulations.

What can I do about noise?

The best way to get involved is to comment on the action plans being produced for your area. These will go out to public consultation and you will have a chance to have a say in the measures being designed to manage the noise.

How do I complain about noise?
Noise From Road Traffic

Complaints regarding noise from moving traffic should in the first instance be reported to your local authority's Highways Department.

Noise From Railways

Train and railway noise should be reported to the Network Rail Helpline on 0845 711414. Further information is available from the Network Rail website.

Noise From Airports

Complaints regarding noise from civil aircraft and helicopters (which include all types of civil passenger carrying aircraft, private pleasure aircraft, helicopters, microlight and crop-spraying aircraft which are registered in the UK) should be directed to the relevant airport operator in the first instance. If the operator is unknown, the Civil Aviation Authority can be contacted on 020 7379 7311. Further information is available on the CAA website.

In instances where the noise is from a military aircraft the initial complaint should be directed to the base commanding officer or reported to the Ministry of Defence on 020 7218 6020. Further information is available on the MOD website.

Noise From Industry

All local authorities will have staff who will investigate complaints about noise from a variety of sources and some have specialist officers who will deal with this issue. Noise from certain large industrial sites is regulated by the Environment Agency. You can email the Environment Agency at: in order to find out if a site is regulated by them. Further information is available on the Environment Agency website

Neighbourhood Noise

Many noise problems particularly those involving neighbours can be resolved informally by talking to the individual causing the noise. Local authorities have a duty to take reasonably practicable steps to investigate a complaint of a statutory nuisance.

There are other organisations and groups that offer advice on noise issues. These include;

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