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City Dwellers Must Tolerate Noisy Environments

City dwellers will be disappointed to hear of a High Court ruling that established the principle that those who live in heavily built up areas can be expected to put up with greater noise levels than their counterparts living in the country.

Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Limited encountered a storm of local opposition when it proposed opening a new store in Rochester Row, Central London. Westminster City Council refused planning consent for the required change of use to food retailing on grounds that the noise of deliveries to the store would unreasonably disturb residents. Lorry parking difficulties and road safety issues were also cited.

However, in allowing Sainsbury’s appeal against that decision, a planning inspector found that traffic and parking problems were not insurmountable and pointed to the fact that noise levels in the busy area already exceeded World Health Organisation guidelines. Despite the council’s submissions to the contrary, the back street into which deliveries would be made could not be viewed as a ‘quiet hinterland’.

In dismissing the council’s challenge to that decision, the Court ruled that the inspector was entitled to take account of the fact that he was considering a ‘noisy city street’, rather than a ‘quiet backwater’. The noise caused by deliveries to shops and offices was ‘common to a city centre location’.

The Court rejected arguments that the inspector had used an unheralded and flawed noise assessment method in reaching his decision. He had properly exercised his planning judgment and taken a balanced approach in evaluating the impact that the additional noise would have on the amenity of local residents.