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Cuenca Municipal Action Plan for Sustainable Environmental Acoustics (P.A.A.S.A. CUENCA)
Start date: Jan 1, 2010, End date: Jun 30, 2012 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Background Spanish cities are known for their noise levels. In fact, Spain is recognised as one of the “noisiest countries in Europe”. According to World Health Organisation statistics for 2008, Spain has the highest level of noise pollution after Japan. This, however, is set to change as concepts such as noise pollution are making their way into society. The EU’s Environmental Noise Directive (2002/49/EC) addresses this issue. However, the directive’s requirement for Member States to draw up Strategic Noise Maps for urban zones, only applies to zones with more than 250 000 inhabitants. Cuenca, a city with a population of 54 600 in the autonomous community of Castilla-La Mancha in central Spain, is not covered by this legislation. Objectives The project targeted noise problems in Cuenca through a coordinated set of actions, namely: drawing up a strategic noise map for the city’s citizens; providing an analysis of the acoustic quality; and implementing a plan of action for tackling the problem of noise pollution in line with the requirements for larger cities (as identified by the EU’s noise pollution directive). In order to meet these objectives, all departments of the city council were to use a ‘LOCALGIS’ software tool (a land information tool). This LOCALGIS tool was to be linked to the city’s noise map, and it would enable the municipal units to adopt noise management plans. Special courses were planned to teach council staff how to use the new software and how to complete the noise pollution questionnaire. The LOCALGIS tool would also monitor and quantify noise complaints. Results would be widely disseminated to ensure that other European citizens, corporations and municipalities could benefit from the advantages, technology, innovation and results of the project. As such, the project aimed to act as a point of reference for other European municipalities of similar size and characteristics. Results The project met most of the foreseen targets and results. These included drafting and approving of an Action Plan against noise in Cuenca. The noise action plan in the municipality of Cuenca led to a number of actions, including the development of a strategic noise map, the analysis of traffic speed and noise level ratios, beneficial advocacy, outreach, and related staff training experience, as well as the development of a monitoring protocol for complaints. The project’s strategic noise map provides acoustic mapping of the study area and information on noise exposure from different sources. Intended to serve as a tool for management and control of noise pollution in the city of Cuenca, it has been used as a basis for designing the action plan adopted by the Council of Cuenca in June 20, 2012. Analysis of the sound measurements obtained during development of the strategic noise map offer useful qualitative insights into the relationship between vehicle speed and traffic noise. The project’s use of precision GPS technology during noise mapping can be seen as an innovation with strong demonstration value. It provides tools for simulating, modelling and assessing the noise impacts from different traffic control interventions, such as changes in speed limits and/or management of vehicular access in different locations at different times. It also provides decision-makers in urban planning positions with valuable information to help prioritise budgets towards scenarios that indicate noise levels of a tolerable standard. Through implementing the LIFE project, Cuenca has gone beyond legislative requirements and can thus be considered as having a highly innovative and commendable approach to managing its urban noise levels. Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report (see "Read more" section).
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