Living next to a noisy road can make life a misery, and even impact on health according to numerous studies. The World Health Organisation has even claimed traffic noise to be the second largest environmental problem across the EU.
Highways England runs a scheme to help those who may be most affected by road noise. This applies to people who live in special hotspots, listed by Highways England as “Noise Important Areas”.
There are some 1,130 Noise Important Areas throughout England, typically found in locations where other noise reduction measures such as physical barriers or low noise road surfaces cannot be used.
Highways England wants to help reduce the effect of road noise in 1,000 Noise Important Areas, by undertaking work to improve the noise insulation of affected homes.
How do I know if I live in a Noise Important Area?
To be eligible, homes must be within a designated Noise Important Area containing fewer than 10 properties. These cover the top 1 percent of properties affected by noise from main roads.
In the first instance, Highways England will write to eligible homeowners and tenants, inviting them to apply under the scheme.
If you are unsure on eligibility, contact the Highways England customer contact centre on 0300 123 5000.
I’m eligible. What happens next?
If you are eligible for the scheme, homeowners would first need to contact their mortgage lender/shared ownership scheme operator to ensure they are free to make improvements.
Those in rented accomodation will need to obtain the permission of their landlord. Highways England can contact the property owner on the behalf of tenants.
Also, if your property is a listed building, you may need to contact your local authority to obtain Listed Building Consent before any work can be undertaken.
With the appropriate permissions in place, an application to Highways England will move to the next step, with an assessment from a surveyor.
How does the assessment work?
A surveyor will visit the property at a pre-booked time, and complete a thorough assessment of the current road noise levels, and the best way to mitigate them.
The surveyor will determine which rooms will benefit from noise insulation, take measurements of doors and windows, and produce a report on their findings.
What kind of improvements will be made to my property?
The bulk of the improvements made to insulate against road noise will be targeted at doors and windows.
These will typically only include rooms considered to be ‘noise sensitive’, such as living rooms, bedrooms, dining rooms, and studies. It means you are likely to be out of luck expecting upgraded windows and doors for bathrooms or kitchens.
Work is undertaken on a ‘like for like’ replacement basis, aiming to match the design and construction of existing doors, windows, and bi-fold doors.
Special ventilation measures are also included. These allow air into the rooms on warmer days, but without the need to open windows.
Who will do the work? How do I pay them?
All work will be carried out by contractors directly appointed by Highways England. Those chosen will be subject to Disclosure and Barring Service checks, whilst those fitting uPVC doors and windows will need to meet relevant British Standards.
The contractors will also make good any damage caused to plasterwork and other interior decoration. Highways England are responsible for paying the contractors directly, and will not hand over the money until work is completed satisfactorily.
Once the work is complete, the new doors, windows and ventilation systems become the property of the homeowner. This also means the responsibility for maintenance belongs to the resident, although all new items are guaranteed.
How long is funding available for?
Some £39 million has been made available for the scheme, with more than 600 homes already having received double-glazing upgrades.
Funding will continue until March 2020.