Quiet night delivery guide rejected by noise specialists

motorway-lorryThe pros and cons of night-time freight deliveries have been hotly debated between industry, government departments and professional and lobbying groups concerned with noise for a number of years. But the latest contribution by the Department for Transport is, unfortunately, set to be rejected says Howard Price, Principal Policy Officer at CIEH, as the Noise Abatement Society and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health have this week united in criticising proposed revised Guidance. 

This new practice guidance for local authorities, which comprises a suite of complementary documents aimed at different stakeholders, has been under development since last year by consultants Atkins, on behalf of the Department for Transport. Now at the final draft stage, the Noise Abatement Society and Chartered Institute of Environmental have been asked to endorse it.  The support of specialists in the field the groups represent would encourage acceptance by regulators in local councils.

The rationale behind the guidance is that allowing freight deliveries out of normal working hours could have a number of benefits – in speeding journeys (allowing more deliveries per shift) and reduced fuel consumption, and also cutting traffic congestion, air pollution and conflicts with vulnerable road users (i.e. cyclists and school children), during peak times.  However, as many delivery points are where people live, concerns have repeatedly been raised by representatives of local authority officers and organisations concerned with noise that increased night time deliveries could cause disturbance to local communities. Local authority environmental health officers are responsible for managing nuisance noise in their area, and noise specialists are unhappy that allowing quieter out of hours deliveries will not be in the best interests of a community in all cases – which is what the new guidance appears to imply.

Both NAS and CIEH have been working on the issues raised for communities and regulators by allowing deliveries out of normal working hours for a number of years. The NAS, being an instigator and major partner in the Quiet Deliveries Demonstration Scheme in 2010, and CIEH taking part in producing the original `Delivery Improvement Guide` and its Freight Transport Association companion `Delivery Improvement Toolkit` in 2006. During work towards this developing guidance, many stakeholders including EPUK have been endeavouring to  ensure that a balance is maintained between business, environmental and community interests. Concerns are now being raised that the balance is being tipped against community well-being.

Howard Price, Principal Policy Officer at CIEH recalls battles fought when drafting the original toolkit – to persuade commercial interests, DfT and the (then) DTI that more disturbance was not an acceptable consequence of longer delivery hours. They understood in the end, but he is concerned that this re-draft seems to be trying to turn the clock back, for example describing local authorities` roles as those of `facilitators` and `mediators` rather than safe guarding the health of local communities.

Gloria Elliott, Chief Executive of the NAS agrees that the underlying presumption in favour of retailers is not something NAS or those they have worked with ever signed-up to. She says for the schemes to work all stakeholders must have parity in the way they are conducted – and this does not appear to be the case in the guidance currently on the table.

Both organisations emphasise that they are not opposed in principle to minimising delivery restrictions. Quiet Deliveries schemes can work at many sites but not all. They believe competing demands of commerce must be reconciled with protecting neighbours from unhealthy night time noise disturbance rather than traded off one against another, and therefore cannot support the current proposals as drafted.

Chartered Institute for Environmental Health

Noise Abatement Society


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