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Noise legislation
 

Close proximity of residential areas to industrial, commercial or agricultural activities creates the condition for potential conflicts related to noise nuisances.

The rules applicable to a given classified installation depend on several factors:

  • The administrative situation of the facility (permit or declaration);
  • The date the operation started, as certain regulations do not apply to existing installations or only under certain conditions.

As a rule, regardless of the legislation applicable, inconvenience is assessed by the emergence of and compliance with a limit level.

What is emergence?

“Emergence is a temporary modification of the ambient level caused by the appearance or disappearance of a specific noise.” AFNOR

Emergence is defined under the law as the difference between the equivalent A-weighted continuous acoustic pressure levels of ambient noise (operating facility) and residual noise (in the absence of noise generated by the facility but measured over the operating period of the facility); in the case of a facility subject to an authorised modification, residual noise does not include the noise generated by the entire modified facility.

Regulated emergence areas (ZER) are:

  • the inside of buildings lived in or occupied by third parties, existing at the date of the installation’s permit order and their nearest external areas when relevant (courtyards, gardens, terraces),
  • building areas defined by urban planning documents enforceable against third parties and published at the date of the order,
  • the inside of buildings lived in or occupied by third parties, set up after the permit order in the building areas and their adjoining areas as defined above, with the exception of buildings set up in ZAA (local exchange areas) and ZAI (Intercommunal activity areas).

Noise emission limits for new or modified permit holding installations after 1st July 1997

The legislation sets, for classified installations, noise level limits tolerable by local residents and a maximum emergence level of the noise of the installations in relation to the ambient noise.

Permissible emergence values
The noise emissions of a classified installation should not generate, within regulated emergence areas, an emergence higher than the permissible values stipulated in the following table:

Level of ambient noise in ZERs (including the noise of the facility)Permissible emergence E dB(A)
  7.00 a.m. – 10.00 p.m. except Sundays and bank holidays 10.00 p.m. - 7.00 a.m. + Sundays and bank holidays
>35 dB(A) et ≤ 45 dB(A) 6 dB(A) 4 dB(A)
> 45 dB(A) 5 dB(A) 3 dB(A)

Permissible levels at property boundaries
Permissible levels at property boundaries cannot exceed 70 dB(A) for the daytime and 60 dB(A) for the night time, unless the residual noise for the period considered is higher than this limit.

2Noise emission limits for permit holding installations existing before 1st July 1997 which have since not been modified and installations with a declaration obligation2

The general operational requirements imposed to limit nuisances are defined by prefectural permit order based on the provisions of the ministerial order of 20 August 1985. By virtue of this order, there is a “presumption of nuisance” when one of the following conditions is not complied with:

  • emergence in relation to the initial noise level is higher than 3 dB(A);
  • permissible noise level for the area considered is exceeded.

Case of installations located in a residential building
If the installation is located in a building lived in or occupied by third parties, the permissible noise levels within the adjoining premises lived in or occupied by third parties should not exceed the following values:

Type of premisesDayIntermediate periodNight
Residential, healthcare, retirement, education premises 35 dB(A) 30 dB(A) 30 dB(A)
Tertiary activity premises 45 dB(A) 45 dB(A) 45 dB(A)
Non-noisy industrial premises 55 dB(A) 55 dB(A) 55 dB(A)

In the case of an installation located outside a building lived in or occupied by third parties, noise level limits are determined according to the nature of the urban development, based on a reference value equal to 45 dB(A), adjusted to take into account the type of area (hospital, residential, urban etc.) and time of day.

Case of installations subject to specific orders
Since 1985, a number of activities have been subject to specific orders, establishing special requirements, notably in terms of noise. Generally, these requirements are based on the order of 20 August 1985, the only difference being in the emergence limits of 5 dB(A) in the daytime and 3 dB(A) at night.
Nowadays, the requirements of some of these orders have been replaced by those of the order of 23 January 1997. Applicable requirements differ depending on the activity and permit issue date (new or modified):

InstallationsOrders
  01/07/1997 01/07/2000 17/06/2001 
Livestock farms MO of 07/02/05
Glass industry (MO of 15/11/99) MO of 14/05/93 MO of 23/01/97
Paper mills (MO of 03/04/00) MO of 06/01/94 MO of 23/01/97
Cement plants MO of 3/05/93 MO of 23/01/97
Urban waste incineration facilities MO of 25/01/91 MO of 23/01/97
Quarries (MO of 24/01/01) MO of 23/01/97

MO = Ministerial order

Case of installations with a declaration obligation
The installations are regulated by a standard order or a specific ministerial order.

Case of non classified installations
For the installations not subject to the legislation on classified installations, the public health code applies (articles R1337-6 to R1337-10)

Legislation

Order of 23 January 1997 relative to the limitation of the noise emitted into the environment by classified installations for environmental protection
Order of 20 August 1985 relative to airborne noise emitted into the environment by classified installations for environmental protection
Order no. 1 of 07/02/05 stipulating the technical rules applicable to cattle, poultry and/or game birds and pig farms with a permit and declaration obligation under book V of the environmental code
Order no. 2 of 07/02/05 stipulating the technical rules applicable to cattle, poultry and/or game birds and pig farms with a permit and declaration obligation under book V of the environmental code
Order of 24 January 2001
Order of 3 April 2000 relative to the paper industry
Order of 15 November 1999
Order of 2 February 1998 relative to the water withdrawal and consumption as well as all types of emissions of permit holding classified installations for environmental protection
Order of 22 September 1994 relative to the operation of quarries and primary quarry material treatment facilities
Order of 6 January 1994 relative to the paper industry
Order of 14 May 1993 relative to the glass industry
Order of 3 May 1993 relative to cement plants
Order of 25 January 1991 relative to municipal waste incineration installations
Public health code