Meeting held 13/07/17 with Tilon Composites with regard to the possible installation of acoustic barriers to mitigate noise pollution caused by the M6
Residents: Andrew Barwell, Inam Choudray, Joan Wild, Peter Wild
Tilon: Chris King (Sales Director), Mike Isaacs (Business Development Manager)
Cheshire East: Andrew Kolker
CPC: Mike Hodge
The meeting held at Joan and Peter Wild’s house was informal and began with an explanation/demonstration of the acoustic barriers manufactured by Tilon Composites in Wales. They are constructed from recycled plastic (this could incorporate material collected local – suggested to be good PR) and have a sectional structure containing a non-inflammable insulation noise-absorbing material similar to Rockwool. The barriers (claimed to be maintenance-free and long lasting i.e. 25+ years) are supported by steel posts. The Tilon representatives said that their main competitor was wooden acoustic barriers which they said was more expensive and much less durable as wood is significantly affected by weather (3 years only?). However, whatever material is used, the cost of barriers is significant. The Tilon panels cost £34/sq. m and the cost of the posts and the installation also have to be factored in. As a rough guide, the cost for a 2km stretch with a 4m high barrier might well be £400K. Highways England (HE) might pay some or all of the cost but only if it could be proved that the noise levels are unacceptably high by a report from an approved company. (Currently it would appear that HE’s estimates of noise in Cranage are based on computer modelling rather than measurements.) A precedent has been set by the installation of acoustic barriers along part of the M40. Tilon has evidence of noise reduction from around 90 to 60 decibels for the M40 project. Both Andrew Kolker and I crouched down behind the sample barrier (erected in the garden of the Wild’s house) and we agreed there was a noticeable reduction in noise from the M6. It is also possible (but unproven) that the insulation might collect particulate pollutants). It was noted that noise levels resulting from traffic on the M6 in some areas of Cranage appear to be very high and this is known to be damaging to human health. Illogically control of pollution is the responsibility of the relevant local authority, even though they may (and certainly in this case) have no control over its cause. However, this might be a lever for action from Cheshire East.
The following points were discussed to form the basis of an action plan.
- Investigate the commissioning of a noise report. This is likely to be of the order of £15K and has to be acceptable to HE. Funding will be investigated (Cheshire East might contribute) and support will be sought from Fiona Bruce MP. (Noise levels of 91 decibels have been measured in the Oak Tree Lane area, while around 60 decibels is an “acceptable” level). Tilon will provide contact details for local people involved in the M40 project who should be able to advise both on commissioning an acceptable noise report and other general dos and don’ts.
- A more accurate cost will be produced by Tilon but it will still be approximate because it depends on whether the barrier is on privately owned land adjacent to the M6 (where costs could be significantly lower because HE–approved contractors are unnecessary and therefore cheaper) or on land owned by HE. (If the latter, installation is likely to be much slower, mainly because of procrastination by HE).
- If installation is on privately owned land, the land owners’ permission will be required (and where unknown, the landowners identified).
- Check whether planning permission is needed.
- Investigate the use of solar panels as a method of funding the installation. Andrew Kolker said that there were precedents for Cheshire East to lend money to organisations (in this case CPC) and the loan to be repaid from the revenue generated (in this case from the income by selling electricity generated from the solar panels).
In principle, residents affected by noise from the M6 deserve support from CPC. Currently it is uncertain what practical support is needed but it may become clearer once a draft project plan has been produced. If (say) a committee is formed to progress these ideas into a formal project, then in my view, it should include CPC representation.