Noise Attenuation – Stockland Developments v Wollongong Council

The judgment of Stockland Developments v Wollongong Council provides us with direction as to the preferred method of noise attenuation with respect to development.

Facts and issues

The applicant, Stockland Developments, sought approval for an integrated housing development containing 18 dwellings on 18 residential lots and one community lot. However, to the north of the proposed development was the Cookson Plibrico industrial plant (the Cookson site). The plant, located approximately 100m from the site, was a significant noise source and conducted its operations 24 hours, seven days a week.

All issues in the proceedings arose out of the need to mitigate the noise emanating from the activities of the Cookson site (that is, a site that was not the site to be developed as part of the development application).

The planning principle

The Court relevantly stated:

As a general planning principle, where there is conflict between a noise source and a sensitive receptor preference should be given to the attenuation of any noise from the source rather than at the sensitive receptor. This is true whether the noise source generated by a proposal is a new noise and the receptor exists or the noise generator exists and the receptor is a proposed use. In deciding whether the noise should be attenuated at the source, consideration should be given to the degree of conflict between the appropriate noise goals, the difficulty and cost associated with treating the noise at the source, the willingness of the noise generator to be treated and the potential amenity impacts associated with noise attenuation at the receptor. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the cost of attenuation measures may be borne by either party or shared between them, irrespective of the location.

Outcome

It was determined by the Court, in this case, that noise attenuation at the source (that is, the Cookson site) was appropriate. This was achieved by way of conditions of consent to the following effect:

  1. a condition requiring a 30 m acoustic wall to be constructed along part of the southern boundary of the Cookson site, with additional works to be carried out (potentially including an increase in the 30 m acoustic wall) if the noise goals were not achieved.
  2. conditions the installation of discharge silencers to reduce specific levels of noise emitted from identified plant at the Cookson site.
  3. a condition requiring any noise sources during the evening and day time to be assessed at the residential property boundary in accordance with standards at that time.

What it means

Noise is becoming a prevalent issue in the Land and Environment, particularly as different types of development are constructed in close proximity to each other (for example, new subdivisions in Western Sydney, and childcare centres in residential areas).

It is critical to obtain advice from appropriately qualified experts to ensure that solutions are prepared to mitigate any potential noise impacts (being the impacts of the development itself, or the impacts of other developments on the proposed development).

Read more

Click here to access a copy of the judgment: Stockland Developments v Wollongong Council and others [2004] NSWLEC 470

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Alyce is a civil engineer and a practicing lawyer, who has a desire to share her insights on the legal and practical realities of the development industry.