Funding gap in tackling rural road noise

10th Sep 2015

CPRE uses new map and Government data to call for more investment and better management for rural roads

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) is calling for national and local action to tackle a worrying surge in road noise and road traffic in rural areas.

New Government statistics show that traffic and hence noise is growing fastest on minor rural roads, with a shocking 5.5% increase in the past year alone. Increased use of satnavs is believed to be part of the reason that traffic is spreading off major roads onto networks of minor roads, eroding rural tranquillity deep into the countryside.

Further Government data also published last month shows how far road noise from busier roads intrudes into the countryside. CPRE has used the data to produce an interactive map for authorities and the public. It demonstrates how roads such as the A31, running through the South Downs National Park and along the Surrey Hills AONB, disturb the tranquillity of villages, protected landscapes and wider countryside.

To combat noise in rural areas, CPRE is asking the Government to divert some funding from Highways England, newly responsible for major roads, to local authorities, so that low-noise surfaces can be laid on locally run A roads as well as strategic national ones. Cuts to local government budgets mean that rural councils are struggling to maintain road surfaces.

To better manage traffic and speed on minor roads, CPRE is calling for local authorities to implement 40 mph zones and heavy vehicle restrictions. These would be particularly valuable in cherished and protected landscapes, where tranquillity underpins the experience and enjoyment of countryside.

Last year the Government announced £350 million of funding to reduce the environmental impacts of motorways and major A roads. This was welcome, but it does not cover roads within local authority control. As a recent Government study estimated the social costs of road noise in urban areas alone to be £7-£10 billion per year, the importance of mitigating the impact of road noise is clear.

Ralph Smyth, transport campaign manager at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), comments: “Road noise is estimated to have the same cost to the economy as road crashes and over half that of congestion, yet we barely spend anything to tackle it. This means England is years behind our European neighbours. Besides the huge cost to the health of those who live within earshot of heavy traffic, road noise reaches far into our countryside, damaging tranquillity.

“Our new map shows the importance of last year’s announcement to fund the reduction of noise from major roads. But with road noise increasing fastest in rural areas, Government needs to extend funding to local authorities to protect the quiet areas we still have.

“While low-noise surfacing is needed on busy local roads, we also need to manage traffic better on minor roads, so that there are still country lanes where tranquillity can be found.”