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SoundScapeIssue 0127As our residential areas become increasingly densely populated, Rockwool's business development director, Andrew Champ, insists it's time for government, industry and the public to act - before we all get drowned outBRITAIN 2020: NOISE CAPITAL OF EUROPE?

SoundScapeIssue 0128Land shortages and planning restrictions mean that developers are increasingly building in areas where, 20 years ago, no one would have anticipated housing stock to appear. New apartments are now being built next to railway stations, motorways and in the middle of city centres above late-night bars and restaurants. As a result, householders are increasingly living in ever more densely populated developments surrounded by loud noise from transport hubs, bars and clubs. This exposure to excessive noise poses a very real public health risk, one that is set to increase dramatically over the next decade unless it is addressed. This should provoke considerable concern given the growing body of scientific evidence establishing that excessive noise exposure can induce hearing impairment, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, tinnitus and stress. Pressure on housing stock is likely to be exacerbated in forthcoming decades as the population of the UK is predicted to swell from 62.2 million to around 77 million by 2050 - an increase of almost a quarter (24%). This will result in the UK having the biggest population in Western Europe by 2050, overtaking both France and Germany, despite the fact its land mass is dwarfed by both these countries. With this trend set to continue we will witness ever-larger conurbations, with cities swallowing up the surrounding towns and villages to create huge urban metropolises.Given the limited available land bank in the UK, developers will increasingly need to build upwards to maximise revenues from the available footprint. As a result, it is likely that the UK will witness an increase in the trend for continental-style apartment living as land pressures place a premium on the construction of traditional housing. In addition, social housing guidelines are encouraging the building of flats, resulting in greater population density in our towns and cities. While application of the guidelines may vary, in some areas even relatively small developments can be required to include a percentage of social housing. Cardiff Council's executive member for communities, housing and social justice, for instance, wants to see developments with over 10 dwellings include a percentage of affordable housing.So what does the increase in population and greater propensity for people to live in apartments mean for the UK's noise footprint?Where there is a tighter density of people living in a small area there is a greater likelihood that they will be exposed to noise pollution. In a semi-detached property there is a single party wall between the dwellings through which sound waves can travel. In an apartment or flat there are multiple party walls through which noise can be transmitted.It is inevitable that where people are living in apartments with multiple adjoining properties noise will become an increasing source of division and conflict.Some commentators believe plans announced by the coalition government to revise local government planning regulations - key component of its localism agenda - will have a positive impact on neighbourhood noise. The coalition government intends to increase the power for local residents to object to developments, which includes introducing third-party rights of appeal.In many areas it may help prevent excessive build up of properties in too small an area, especially with regard to 'garden grabbing', when garden plots are sold to developers resulting in properties located ever closer together. However, some commentators believe that this approach will only benefit those living in middle-class and wealthy areas. They argue that residents living in areas featuring a high density of social housing, or rental properties, will have less emotional investment in their environment. If they feel less invested, they will be less motivated and willing to complain about encroachment of new developments.Where residents may be less likely to lobby against new constructions, we may see an increased concentration of development within a small geographic area within cities and towns. This could result in the creation of noise ghettos, where properties are built in close proximity complying with the absolute minimum standards for spacing between buildings.Recognising these trends in population growth, increased concentration of residential properties and the types of buildings being developed, we need to look at innovative solutions to noise problems if we are to avoid a damaging aural environment in which to live. Developers and householders increasingly need to look to building design and product innovations that can effectively reduce the transmission of noise. Householders are increasingly living in ever more densely populated developments, surrounded by loud noise from transport hubs, bars and clubs