Following Legal Advice, Stirling Council is to Take Enforcement Action on Rail Noise and Vibration
Stirling Council is to come to the rescue of line side residents who, following the opening of the SAK Railway line in 2008, have been left with broken promises and high levels of noise and vibration.
A report commissioned by the Council in late 2014 found that night time noise levels outside resident’s homes constituted a statutory nuisance and that vibration levels at some properties was excessive. Network Rail and the freight operators have continued to run heavy night freight despite pleas, complaints and even written requests from the Scottish Parliament in attempts find a solution.
Now, thanks to the support of elected politicians, there is hope that enforcement orders will protect the health and well being of those affected by these forms of railway pollution.
Protecting the Heart of Scotland
Stirling, due to its central position and strong transport connections, is considered by many to be ‘the heart of Scotland’
1 It is a fundamental human right of individuals, communities, cities and nations that they be able to live without the blight of noise pollution.
2 Noise pollution must be controlled to levels that:
•Do not harm health
•That allow normal functioning, well being and development
•That allow adequate duration and quality of sleep (8 hrs adult , 10-12 hrs children)
3 The ‘polluter pays principle’ should be upheld at all times, ie those responsible for creating or who benefit from the process that generates the pollution should bear the cost of taking measures to address it.
4 The ‘precautionary principle’ should be upheld, ie where there is reason to believe that noise or vibration might be harmful, the onus is on those who generate such emissions to prove, with independent verification, that the levels are not harmful or detrimental to health, well-being or sleep.
5 The public should be made aware of the risks from noise pollution through public health bodies and health and well being media outlets.
6 Medical professionals and environmental regulators should be educated on the risks, symptoms and illnesses that result from noise pollution and of the exposure levels at which these occur.
7 Bodies responsible for environmental standards
or quality of life should act in an effective and timeous manner to ensure these are achieved.
8 Inadequate resources such as insufficient staffing, funding or legislative powers may result in an organization or individual being unable to fulfill their role in regulating or addressing issues of noise pollution or vibration. Where this is the case, all persons responsible must formally notify pertinent senior persons or bodies, including the government and health organizations, of their inability to act effectively and the consequences for the affected population.
9 Legal action must be taken wherever possible against individuals or organizations whose actions or failure to act (such as neglect of duty to monitor or regulate), result in the emission of noise pollution that is prejudicial to health, undermine well-being or breach human rights.
10 Vested interests such as persons whose activities, membership, employment are related to the generation of noise pollution should not have any representation on committees, boards or advisory groups whose role is to maintain health, protect the environment or represent the interests of the community who may be subjected to the noise pollution.
11 Impartiality of data and advice or other expertise is essential. This necessitates that consultants or experts who act in the interests of clients who produce noise pollution are not at any point employed in the regulation or assessment of noise pollution, or the development of standards or policies.¹
Why this manifesto?Noise pollution has a highly negative impact on humans and other organisms and causes significant harm to the natural and social environment. Those against it are asked to distribute this manifesto and, wherever possible, to raise awareness, take action or make representation to reduce or eliminate this pollution both for themselves and for others
Definition: Noise pollution is any noise or vibration, audible or inaudible (eg infra sound) , that is introduced by artificial means into the environment that causes harm, discomfort, .
Background: Noise pollution is widespread and increasing and is being generated in the name of ‘progress’ and to serve commercial priorities. The impact includes heart disease, high blood pressure, tinnitus, stress-related illnesses, developmental problems in children and, through sleep deprivation, lower immunity, obesity, inflammation of joints, aggression, deterioration in judgement, coordination and reaction time, inability to memorize, increased susceptibility to accidents. Advised limits, including exposure-dose response relationships have been documented in World Health Organization publications in 1995, 1999, 2005, 2009, 2011. These are based on peer-reviewed studies and give increasingly adamant warnings of the need for controlling this pollution.
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The previous link to the environmental pollution action request form stopped working and has been replaced with the link below. Click on the link at the bottom of this page and your computer will download a UK Environmental Health complaint form in PDF format for you to fill in and send to your local Council.
The form asks the Council to:
• investigate your complaint
.•decide if the pollution is a statutory nuisance
•if so, to serve an abatement order
•to inform you of decisions and outcomes
Please do not worry about filling in all of the areas. They essential parts are to tell the council the type of pollution (noise, vibration etc), the source (trains), and to give your name address. The rest is all optional.
Forms should be sent/handed in to the Council Environmental Health Department.
GETTING A COMPLAINT FORM
Click here to download a complaint form . This will open a new page with a download button. Just click the download button (and direct download option) and it will save a PDF file to your computer. PRINT for yourself and for any neighbours who are affected. The form is 3 pages long, you only fill in the first page which is the essential part (takes about 5 minutes), but you should include page 2 as this is the request for the Council to take action. Page 3 is additional information and is optional. It’s a good idea to keep a copy of what you’ve filled in, then post or hand it in to your own Council at the address below. If you have problems, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively, phone the Council, tell them you want to make a Formal Complaint about Environmental Pollution and give them the relevant information using the form as a guide. [Posting or handing the form in is probably better].
WHERE TO SEND THE COMPLAINT FORM
COUNCIL ADDRESSES AND PHONE NUMBERS:
CLACKMANNANSHIRE Lynn Parsler, Environmental Health, Clackmannanshire Council, Greenfield, Alloa, Clackmannanshire, FK10 2AD, Tel: 01259 450000
STIRLING Mr B Friel, Environmental Health, Stirling Council, Viewforth, Stirling FK8 2ET, (from landline): 0845 277 7000, Phone (from mobile): 01786 404040, Text: 07717 990 001
STIRLING HAND IN POINT Stirling residents can also hand complaints in at Stirling Council’s Thistle Centre Office: Customer First, 1 – 5 Port Street, Stirling FK8 2EJ (bottom of KIng Street) 9 am – 5.30 pm, Monday to Friday, but make sure it is properly addressed (to Mr B Friel, Environmental Health etc above) for it to reach the correct Council department.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
The Council should write to you telling you how they intend to deal with the problem. Keep any correspondence and watch out for announcements on the http://www.nvag.org.uk website or keep checking your email for further developments.
Noise and vibration cause additional health risks as well as being a nuisance so do what you can to minimize exposure, make sure that you monitor your health, especially for blood pressure and cardiovascular issues. Parents should be aware that noise exposure causes cognitive developmental issues in children that may impact on their schooling. NHS Forth Valley have been informed and the Councils are taking steps to investigate the situation.
WHAT’S BEEN HAPPENING:
Anne Massie Sept 2013:
“I had a visit yesterday from Lynn Parsler from Clackmannanshire Environmental Health. She is very sympathetic to what we have suffered over the last five years and will do what she can if she obtains information, but she confirmed what Archie and I have been saying. If you don’t fill in a complaints form and ask her to visit to see your own individual circumstances she can do nothing. She needs to build up an accurate picture of what has been happening and how it has affected our individual lives. The same will apply to other Councils.
She asked me if the trains remained at 10mph past my house would I be able to tolerate that and I said definitely. That may not be the case with other homes – each one will be different. I have mitigation fencing, a tidy garden, much less noise, no vibration – I have little need to complain further (other than possible financial recompense if that is possible) – if I keep going on this it is for YOU!
Lynn has visited four homes in Clackmannanshire, but I am sure there are an awful lot more who should be complaining. Remember you can get used to noise but any levels above 60dba can harm your health. I emphasised that to Lynn. She also looked at the houses in Brucefield Crescent and saw that one had fencing along the line and 5 others did not. She agreed there was no logic in that regardless of any scientific models they prepare.
The noise and vibration is much less where I live in Clackmannan at the moment due to lower speeds while they make track repairs, and also in some other sections along the line; but this will cease very soon and the speeds will be back to normal – 35mph here and 60 to 70mph in some areas. The higher the speed the shorter the time for the train to pass, but the louder the noise and the heavier the vibration.
She is very sympathetic to what we have suffered over the last five years and will do what she can if she obtains information, but she confirmed what Archie and I have been saying. If you don’t fill in a complaints form and ask her to visit to see your own individual circumstances she can do nothing. She needs to build up an accurate picture of what has been happening and how it has affected our individual lives. The same will apply to other Councils.”
Unless you have informed the Council, they take the view that you do not have a problem. The form takes about 5 minutes. Link to the complaint form.
At a full Stirling Council meeting on 28th Feb 2013, the council approved a noise and vibration working group as one of the items on a busy agenda. An amendment was approved that changed both the timescale of the working group to 6 months and revised the membership. The working group now consists of the environment portfolio holder, Councillor Danny Gibson, and the three Councillors of the Castle Ward: Councillor Johanna Boyd, Councillor Jim Thompson and Councillor John Hendry. The remit focuses mostly on the problem of the SAK line although it will also look at the wider issues of rail noise and vibration.
Thanks goes to Councillor Mark Russel who suggested the formation of a working group as a way forwards during the Petition Panel consideration stage. Although not on the working group he is interested in its progress and has asked to be kept informed
NVAG welcome the creation of this group and are keen that the Councillors take on board the views of residents impacted by the noise and vibration and take measures to find an effective resolution to this five year old problem. Indications are that the group will call on locals, NVAG, Forth Valley Health Board and other bodies such as the rail operators and government agencies.
NVAG would like to thank those residents who went to the trouble of collecting signatures that made this petition viable and also to Zara Kitson, who, although not a line side resident, suggested the petition at one of NVAG’s first meetings in 2012, and who spoke on its behalf at the petition panel hearing last month.
This is a positive step by Stirling Council for both democracy and accountability. When will Clackmannanshire Council follow this example and introduce a petition system so that hard-hit residents under its care have a voice in the democratic process?
A McIver, 5th Mar 2013
PRESS RELEASE by Thompson’s Solicitors
For immediate release: 10:00hrs, 23rd November 2012
Families hopes of peace and quiet dashed by Transport Minister
No further testing for night noise and vibration to be carried out on Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine line
Families who live close to the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine railway line whose lives are being blighted by noise and vibration caused by overnight freight have had hopes for a solution dashed.
A series of Parliamentary questions tabled by Dr Richard Simpson, the MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, probed the Scottish Government on the situation following the introduction of night freight on the line which residents had been led to believe wouldn’t happen. The questions asked for details of testing for noise and vibration at residential properties along the line and about standards used to decide on mitigation measures.
Among the answers the Transport Minister Keith Brown MSP stated that vibration measurements had been concluded and that following repeated noise testing no additional properties would be tested for the first time. He also admitted that in reaching it’s conclusion regarding mitigation for properties along the line only four properties had actually been tested for vibration and just 11 for noise levels.
Campaigners claim the Scottish Government is refusing to protect them from the health risks associated with noise and that the Government has based this refusal on a 20 year old report which was commissioned to look at noise as a nuisance. They also claim that two decades of medical research that warn of chronic ill-health, sleep deprivation and stress are being ignored.
Chairman of the Noise Vibration Action Group Archie McIver has accused the Scottish Government of digging its heels in on the issue and said: “By using a defunct, 20 year-old standard called the Mitchell Report, the Scottish Government is refusing to protect line-side families from the harmful impact of night-time train noise.
“There has been a total disregard for the health of people like myself and others who have to deal with interrupted sleep night after night, and the constant daily stress of being bombarded by noise. The financial loss of value to our property is tens of thousands of pounds but this is nothing compared to the struggle to work and to function in a sleep-deprived state. Driving is something we increasingly avoid because of the high risk.”
Thompsons Partner Patrick McGuire said: “The Scottish Government’s latest position on addressing the issue of overnight noise and vibration on the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine line is frankly not good enough. These families were told that the line would not be used for night freight and not only was this complete nonsense but there seems to be no appetite whatsoever to resolve the problem which is causing sleep deprivation and knock on health issues as a result for a large number of people”.
Commenting on the Ministers responses Dr Simpson MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, a former GP and Psychiatrist said: “The fact that this SNP Government and the Minister who is also a local MSP choose to ignore the suffering of many of my constituents shows a complacency which is uncaring in the extreme.
The designation threshold for night time noise nuisance of 82db noise level and occurring more than once per hour means that these night coal trains can never be deemed a disturbance as they are always less frequent than hourly. The Minister and Transport Scotland officials should try sleeping at night in the affected households. It is a shameful disregard for the health and well being of those affected.”
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