Heat Pump Noise and 398 other problems

Asides from heat pump noise there are also a further 333 problems within England itself. That being 333 local authorities together with planning departments therein. This comprises regional authorities, single-tier councils and two-tier councils. Within two-tier councils there are 24 county councils and 181 district councils. Within single-tier councils there are 36 Metropolitan Boroughs, 59 Unitary councils and 33 London boroughs. There are 10 combined regional authorities in England. Regional authorities that exist outside London and have sought permission from government to pool or combine resources. Councils remain separate committed to exisitng functions but can carry out new initiatives collectively. London has 25 assembly members and is it’s own unique form of ‘strategic authority’.

Heat Pump Noise

Heat Pump noise and the real life implications

Local authorities are still finding their way with respect to planning applications for ASHPs (Air Source heat pumps). What this post seeks to achieve and confirm is the futility of how the current Tory government propose to oversee the installation of 600,000 units per year by 2028. How this will become the next track and trace and how so called ‘advisers’ and ‘Think Tanks’ fail to see the practical and real life implications of heat pump noise. This compounded by planning departments in 398 UK authorities with 10,000 parish councils in England alone. While local government consists of three layers and local authorities in England alone are made up of 5 different types:

  • County councils
  • District councils
  • Unitary authorities
  • Metropolitan districts
  • London boroughs

There are around 10,000 smaller parish councils who go under different guises such as town, village or neighbourhood. Parish councils typically operate in smaller rural areas and represent less than a third of the country. While their only legal duty is to provide allotments, unfortunately, they are a statutory consultee in every planning application. It is worth noting that Parish councils escaped the remit of The Localism Act 2011. Successive Tory governments have failed to publish consultation results from 2015 (extending local government remit). Furthermore, a government briefing paper (04827) in February 2019 again highlighted need for reform, yet still nothing has changed.

Politically (England) Tory hold around 40% of local authorities, labour around 31% and 29% are split between Liberal Democrats and Independents. While, of course, not forgetting Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In Wales there are 22 unitary authorities, In Scotland there are 32 local authorities of which all are unitary authorities. Politically in Scotland the SNP have 37% of seats, followed by Labour with 23% while Tories have 17%. In Northern Ireland there are 11 local authorities and as in Scotland and Wales all are unitary authorities. So where’s this going asides from the heads up on the mechanics of local government?

Heat pump installations require planning permission and prior to applying for planning permission an MCS (noise levels) survey is recommended. Balancing neighbour responses should be a pre-requisite, together with block and location plans with your application. The fact that the unit should be a minimum of a metre from a boundary or party wall/fence is irrelevant in respect of heat pump noise. The physical size should also not exceed 0.6m3 (including housing). To mitigate heat pump noise suppliers have put forward the spin that a heat pump is no louder than a toilet flushing. However a toilet flush lasts for approximately 5 seconds, a heat pump will run almost constantly in cold weather and/or below 20c ambient.

The anomaly therefore is the disparity between noise levels, and/or what is now deemed as acceptable noise levels by local authorities, subjective or otherwsie. Any refrigeration/HVAC engineer will confirm when installing an outside air conditioning or cellar cooling condensing unit, local authorities across the board, have typically stipulated a maximum of 40 decibels at night within residential and 50 decibels during the day. Air Source Heat Pumps as per UK government guidelines should be no higher than 45 db (measured 1 metre from neighbouring property). Yet the majority of heat pumps operate between 45 to 60 db.

The government has already committed £450 million to the boiler upgrade scheme for 90,000 households. Further calls to extend the scheme to all 23 million households (with existing gas boilers) would require the government committing a further £115 billion of tax payers money. There remains no tangible acknowledgement to sleep deprivation and the knock on effect to mental health. Taking the illustration above and taking each heat pump at 45db that’s 225 db. In comparison a jet engine at take off is 140db while 101>125 db is classed as extremely loud.

Air Source Heat Pump planning permission – Case Example

Planning application ref: DC/21/03287 with Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Council. A proposed residential development by Crest Nicholson of 258 dwellings with 91 as affordable across 9 hectares. Despite the planning committee’s “strong reservations” the application was given the go ahead. The planning committee also expressed their “disappointment” at the inclusion of gas fired boilers. Furthermore that residents would have to meet future costs for conversion. The main area of contention was that councillors wanted the inclusion of air-source heat pumps  and had deferred the decision. Despite the fact that Crest Nicholson had included solar panels to each property as part of site sustainability.

While Crest had suggested a compromise in that purchasers were given an option to buy an air-source heat pump. However some of the further comments from the planning committee were as follows. A spokesperson, states “it is really diappointing that” Crest Nicholson had “chosen not to engage with the local community or the town council”. Further comments followed “We were really clear at the last meeting about what we wanted. What is before us is not what’s best for Mid Suffolk or our residents. It is what’s best for Crest Nicholson, no doubt.”

More worryingly the individual goes on “I don’t want to support this at all, if I’m honest. That poses a dilemma because we need to reach a decision based on planning reasons, and we do not have much to turn it down on when it comes to these.” While seeming determined to turn the application down then relents “Planning reasons are the only basis this committee can turn an application down.” He then uses the term “with a heavy heart” and that, apparently, “we all know it is not what’s best for Mid Suffolk” (all 7?).

We therefore return to the introduction to this post and the 398 other problems and the underlying and fundamental issue of heat pump noise. It also begs the question as to whether any members of the planning committee have an immediate neighbour with a heat pump 1 metre from their boundary. These committee members are a microcosm (4 for/3 against) of 398 other problems inextricably tethered to the very real spectre of Air Source Heat Pumps (noise). This complete ignorance of heat pump noise is undoubtedly indicative of the Tory government as a whole. Compounded by “cronies”, “advisors” and “think tanks” that have failed to consider the wider picture.

The fact remains that if the planning committee in question would have succeeded in forcing Crest Nicholson to install 258 heat pumps things could have turned very sour. In that all of Stowmarkets 21,000 residents would be entitled to knock on his door when the development had been completed demanding answers as to why they were unable to sleep. The residents of Stowmarket can breathe a sigh of relief and rest easy.

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