HOMES which are for sale should be required to include a report on noise insulation, a leading French health authority has recommended.
The Académie Nationale de Médecine says not enough is done by property developers to protect residents from unwelcome noises – whether it is loud neighbours and traffic in an urban apartment block or dogs barking and aircraft in a rural environment.
It also says mairies should improve their handling of noise problems, setting up dedicated offices to respond promptly to complaints.
The recommendations come after a study by the noise watchdog CIDB in 2010 found 35% of people had trouble sleeping because of noise and a quarter of respondents were suffering from stress or anxiety as a result of sound pollution. Just under 10% said the noise had made them depressed and prompted them to take medication.
The Académie says there has been a wide range of new property regulations in recent years (on energy efficiency, for example) but noise is frequently ignored.
The report continues: “Noise often falls down the priority list, but it has a major health impact.” It calls for better awareness among architects and builders, a kitemark scheme for building firms who are best qualified in this area and an acoustic performance report when a house is sold.
Toulouse city council is one of the leaders in dealing with noise pollution, setting up an Office de la Tranquillité in 2010, including a telephone hotline which is staffed around the clock by a team of 40 operators.
Residents can call 3101 and report neighbourhood noise problems, from loud music to street violence. The centre decides whether an immediate police municipale presence is needed, or whether the case should be handed over to a mediator who will visit.
The mairie’s head of security and policing Jean-Pierre Havrin said: “We’re working on the basis that it’s difficult to get anyone on the phone after 17.00, except the emergency services.”
Under French law, neighbours can face a fine of up to €450 if found by a judge to be making unacceptable noise – although finding an amicable solution is the first port of call.
Several criteria are considered by judges: volume, length and repetitiveness, where it happens (rural or urban) and the age and health conditions of the complainant.
There is no longer any distinction made between night-time noise (tapage nocturne, between 22.00 and 7.00) and noise at other times of the day.