Calls to cut A38 noise levels so Plymouth residents can sleep
A CITY councillor is calling on highways bosses to cut the racket from the A38 Parkway and let residents sleep at night.
Many people who live close to the busy road have to put up with noise levels that would see workers obliged to wear ear defenders, Cllr Richard Ball said.
In the worst areas residents have to put up with the same volume that the operator of a powered lawnmower would hear.
The noise has got worse since the Highways Agency chopped down vegetation along the A38.
Cllr Ball is demanding that the agency urgently looks at measures such as laying a high-tech sound-reducing surface.
The Highways Agency told The Herald that residents might have to wait until 2021/22 before anything was done.
And the agency cautioned that any work would have to compete with other local projects for funding.
But it did offer a crumb of comfort, saying that worn-out carriageway would be replaced with a low-noise surface.
View Decibel level at points along the A38 in a full screen map
Cllr Ball and Budshead councillor Jonathan Drean used a digital sound meter to measure noise levels in properties along the Parkway.
“It’s just not possible to sit in your garden,” said the Cllr Ball, who is Conservative spokesman on transport at Plymouth City Council.
“The level of traffic has gone far beyond what was expected when the road was built.”
The Compton councillor said wheel rumble was a major component of traffic noise and could be “virtually eliminated” by using a high-tech surface.
“The residents of Compton, Eggbuckland and Ham would be pleased,” he said.
“The Factories Act compels employers to provide safety equipment for workers who work in a noisy environment above 80 decibels.
“Yet residents who live close to the A38 as it passes through Plymouth endure noise levels well in excess of that.
“The Highways Agency’s website says, ‘People are at the heart of everything we do’.
“Which people? Not the ones in my ward.”
WELCOME TO PLYMOUTH'S NOISIEST STREET
TRAFFIC thunders by at 70mph only yards away from the gardens of homes in St Pancras Avenue.
Holding a conversation is like chatting in a busy factory and if there is birdsong, it’s inaudible.
In January this year The Herald reported that homeowners in Reddington Road, Hollycroft Road and Valley View Road were struggling to sleep at night.
Conservative councillors Richard Ball (Compton) and Jonathan Drean (Budshead) have now found that the blight extends for much of the length of the road since the Highways Agency started cutting back vegetation last Autumn.
In St Pancras Avenue, sound levels hit 92 decibels on a morning of “relatively light” traffic, the councillors discovered, using a digital sound meter.
Cllr Ball said the Highways Agency was “making excuses” for chopping down the vegetation.
“The biggest lie came when they said the houses were built after the A38,” he claimed. “Many of those houses were built in the 1970s, ten years before the Parkway. Some have been there since 1935.”
And he said that when the agency finally did do something, “they planted a couple of rows of laurel which won’t be effective for 15 years”.
But Cllr Ball was in for a shock in St Pancras Avenue.
“I was horrified,” he said. “There was nothing but a hedge between houses and the road – and they chopped down the hedge”.
Brian and Mary Jago have lived in St Pancras Avenue for 36 years – since before the Parkway was built. Mr Jago, 74, said that the trees were replanted too close to his boundary after the new road was built.
Since the trees along the road were cut back this year the noise has been a problem. “You wouldn’t want the windows open,” he said.
“You can’t stop the traffic but it’s noisy,” Mrs Jago, 70, said. “You don’t want to sit out in the garden.”
Further along St Pancras Avenue neighbours Jackie Palmer and Lee Ellicott said the noise had been a problem.
“It’s not great to sit in the garden now,” Mr Ellicott said.
“And we don’t get the owls now they’ve cut down the trees.”
Ms Palmer said the problems began even while Highways Agency workers were doing the pruning in April this year.
“When they were cutting down the trees they started work at 3.50am each morning for about a week. They had floodlights so our bedrooms were illuminated and they used a noisy shredder. Even in our front rooms you can still hear the traffic.”
Grant and Julie Evans in Dunscombe Avenue, further west, said: “We’ve been here so long we’re used to the noise.”
Mr Evans said the traffic noise “soothed him to sleep”.
Alan Chard, who has lived in St Pancras Avenue for 11 years, said: “At first we noticed the noise but now the trees have grown up we don’t notice it.”
In a report, Cllrs Ball and Drean said a European study showed that noise increased the risks of heart disease, depression, migraine and respiratory conditions.
The Highways Agency told The Herald that it did not use vegetation to cut noise.
“We have recently completed initial investigations to identify what, if any, noise mitigation measures could be installed by 2020/21 to address the noise problems.
However, any mitigation must obtain funding alongside existing priorities in the area, and is expected to conform to the relevant policies. When the surface reaches the end of its serviceable life we will provide low noise surfacing.”
The agency said it had concluded that the best measure for the Parkway would be low noise surfacing.
The agency said it did not have enough information to comment on the noise levels recorded by the councillors.
HOW LOUD IS YOUR NEAREST STRETCH OF THE A38?
SOUND levels in decibel (dB) on the A38 Parkway from West to East. Readings were taken over two days during the morning in similar conditions: traffic fairly light, few lorries. The weather was good and roads were dry.
On the road:
Tamar Bridge 87.7
Mid point 102.6
Last lay-by 96.6
Homes that suffer:
Manadon to Forder Valley:
Burnett Rd 65.8
Delamere Rd 72.7
Orchard Ave 61
Hawthorn Way 66.2
Donnington Drive (north side) 80.1
Donnington Drive (south side) 69.8
Valley View (bottom) 87
Reddington Rd (garden of a home) 88.2
Reddington Rd (behind double-glazed windows of same home) 60.1
Junction Leighton Rd/Maitland Dr 64.9
Beumaris Gdns 65
Pendennis Cl (end) 69.1
Pendennis Cl. (mid) 71.9
Pendennis CL. (bottom) 64
Beumaris (bottom) 70
Beumaris (by footbridge) 64
Tamar Bridge to Manadon:
Ernesettle Cresc 71.9
Marett Rd 72.7
Priestly Ave 72.2
Burrington ind estate (top) 69.9
Tamar Way (east end of Duncombe Ave) 90.7
St Pancras Ave (west end) 92.2
St Pancras Ave (east end) 72.5
DECIBELS: HOW LOUD IS THAT?
140 Threshold of pain.
120 Loud nightclub standing at speaker.
100 Pneumatic drill at 5m, heavy goods vehicle from pavement.
90 Powered lawnmower at operator’s ear.
80 Average traffic on street corner, Vacuum cleaner at 3m.
70 Telephone ringing at 2m, conversational speech
60 Typical business office.
50 Living room in suburban area, refrigerator at 2m.
30 Bedroom at night.
10 Threshold of hearing.