London parks: oases of calm ….or noisy and polluted places to avoid?
New research shows a third of London’s parks are severely impacted by traffic noise
Campaigners at CPRE London  today publish the results of a major new survey of traffic noise in 885 London parks , including a table showing which London Boroughs have the noisiest parks (also set out below) and documents for each Borough showing the noise maps for each borough’s parks . The report marks the launch of a new campaign called Tranquil London  to promote the improvements to London’s green and public spaces for health and wellbeing.
Alice Roberts of CPRE London said: “Our parks are meant to be places for relaxation and recreation, yet nearly a third of London’s parks are severely impacted by traffic noise. In the worst affected borough, Enfield, well over half the parks are severely impacted. Recent research shows parks bring £34 billion of benefits to the UK. But our report shows much greater potential benefits are being lost, because traffic noise puts people off spending time in parks.”
“Surprisingly, we found South London Boroughs’ parks are much quieter than North London.”
The results show (more detail below in Extract from report ‘Findings’):
- Almost one in three (29%) of the 885 London parks surveyed are severely impacted by traffic noise (defined as meaning that 50% to 100% of the park is impacted by traffic noise of 55 decibels or above)
- Wide-ranging results, with Sutton having the fewest parks (7%) severely impacted by traffic noise and Enfield the most (57%) – see table below for full range of results
- South London parks are quieter. All South London Boroughs except one, Lambeth, have a figure below the median for percentage of parks severely impacted by traffic noise (see Table 2 p23)
- Being an Inner or Outer London borough does not mean and having noisier or quieter parks
- Fewer than half (44%) of the London parks surveyed are completely free from traffic noise
- Around one in five (18%) of the parks surveyed are completely noisy i.e. traffic noise of 55 decibels or above can be heard everywhere in the park
- A quarter (25%) of London’s parks are impacted by particularly loud noise defined as being where at least one quarter of the park is impacted by noise of 60 decibels or above
Alice continued: “Noise in parks matters because people are less likely to use parks when they are noisy, meaning benefits are lost. It also matters because there is strong correlation between noise and air pollution from traffic, so where people are exposed to noise, they are also exposed to air pollution. And because noise contributes towards a range of physical and mental health problems.”
“Lots of things can be done to tackle noise in parks: closing roads at weekends is an option, as happens with The Mall in St James’s Park. Traffic can be removed entirely by re-routing roads. Where this is not possible, the use of noise barriers or natural features can make a major difference to both noise and air pollution.”
“Our parks provide an unparalleled range of opportunities – for get-togethers, play and sport, getting out or walking in nature, attractive and safe travel routes, education and heritage. Londoners are being encouraged to use them more, to realise these many benefits, so the factors impacting on their accessibility and attractiveness need to be addressed. Tranquillity is a key consideration and one, as this report reveals, that needs to be given much greater attention.”
TABLE: Proportion of parks severely impacted by traffic noise, by Borough
% of borough parks severely impacted by traffic noise (i.e. the proportion of parks where 50% to 100% of the park is impacted by traffic noise of 55+ decibels). This table also notes boroughs in Inner/Outer and North/South London.
|Number of parks surveyed||Inner London Borough (I)
|South London Borough (S) North (N)||% of borough parks severely impacted by traffic noise|
|Kensington & Chelsea||14||I||N||14%|
|Kingston Upon Thames||20||O||S||20%|
|Barking and Dagenham||19||O||N||26%|
|Hammersmith & Fulham||22||I||N||45%|
EXTRACT FROM MAIN REPORT
In total, 885 of London’s parks were surveyed. Data tables and graphs are presented in Section 8 below. Additionally, a spreadsheet with the collated results, along with documents showing park noise maps for each London Borough, can be found at www.cprelondon.org.uk/resources/item/2391-noiseinparksreportand
OVERALL OBSERVATIONS (See Table 1, Section 8)
All parks were placed in one of the following categories:
- 0-25% of the park is impacted by traffic noise of 55 decibels or above
- 25-50% of the park is impacted by traffic noise of 55 decibels or above
- 50-75% of the park is impacted by traffic noise of 55 decibels or above
- 75-100% of the park is impacted by traffic noise of 55 decibels or above
- Categories A and D dominated the results i.e. the majority of parks (86%) fell into either categories A or D, meaning that most parks are either fairly free from noise or the whole (or nearly the whole) park is impacted by traffic noise. This might reflect how noise barriers work: where there is no barrier, traffic noise carries a long way but where there is a barrier between nearby main roads and the local park e.g. houses, this is likely to mean the park is quiet.
- The results were wide-ranged. Sutton has the least (7% of) parks severely impacted by traffic noise and Enfield has the most (57%).
- South London Boroughs’ parks are quieter than North London’s. All South London Boroughs except one, Lambeth, had a figure below the median for percentage of parks severely impacted by noise.
- Being an Outer or Inner London made no difference. Being an Inner or Outer London borough does not mean and having noisier or quieter parks.
Parks SEVERELY IMPACTED by traffic noise (See Table 2 / Graph 2, Section 8)
- Almost one in three (29%) of London’s parks are severely impacted by traffic noise defined as meaning that 50% to 100% of the park is impacted by traffic noise of 55+ decibels.
- Enfield, Westminster and Lambeth’s parks are worst affected with 57%, 56% and 50% of parks severely impacted.
- Sutton and Richmond’s parks are the least impacted by noise with only 7% and 9% of parks severely impacted.
- The Inner and Outer London Boroughs are spread evenly throughout this table indicating there is no correlation between being an Inner or Outer Borough and having noisy or quiet parks.
- The South London boroughs are disproportionately represented in the upper half of this table i.e. they tend to have quieter parks.
QUIET PARKS – Parks completely free from traffic noise (See Table 3 / Graph 3, Section 8)
- Just under half (44%) of London’s parks are completely free from traffic noise
- Kensington & Chelsea, Lewisham and Merton have the most noise-free parks with over 60% of parks in these boroughs completely free from traffic noise.
- Westminster and Enfield have the fewest with only 16% and 18% of parks completely free from noise respectively.
Noisiest parks where the WHOLE PARK IS NOISY (See Table 4 / Graph 4, Section 8)
- Almost one in five (18%) of the parks surveyed were completely noisy i.e. traffic noise of 55+ decibels can be heard everywhere is the park
- For the worst affected borough, Enfield, nearly half of its parks (45%) are in this category, in Hammersmith & Fulham 41% and Westminster 40%.
- In Bromley and Lewisham, however, none of their parks are in this category.
Noisiest parks where the park is impacted by PARTICULARLY LOUD NOISE (See Table 5 / Graph 5, Section 8)
- A quarter (25%) of London’s parks are impacted by particularly loud noise (defined as being where at least one quarter of the park is impacted by noise of 60+ decibels)
- For the worst affected boroughs, Westminster, Camden, Lambeth, Redbridge and Hammersmith and Fulham, over 40% of parks are in this category.
- In Richmond, Kensington & Chelsea, Croydon and Merton, however, fewer than 10% of parks are in this category.
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
(1) CPRE London www.cprelondon.org.uk is a membership-based charity with 2,500 members around London, which campaigns to save Green Belt, Metropolitan Open Land and other green spaces within Greater London, and to make our capital city a better place to live for everyone. We are a branch of the national environmental charity, the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
(4) CPRE London’s Tranquil London project aims to promote and increase the benefits of green space and the wider public realm within the capital. Tranquil London: improving green and public spaces for health and wellbeing will be the focus of discussion at CPRE London’s AGM on Thursday 24 May from 6-8.30pm at 70 Cowcross St, EC1M 6EJ. All are welcome to attend – register here
Head of Green Space Campaigns