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Noise abatement is a set of strategies that are designed to reduce noise pollution. The main sources of noise are aircraft noise and roadway noise and abatement techniques include transportation noise control, architectural design and occupational noise control.

Noise can cause anxiety, tension, or even illness, and prolonged exposure to high levels of noise can cause hearing loss. Noise is regarded as a form of environmental pollution, and is sometimes considered an international health concern.

Greenspace has the ability to mitigate noise in urban areas. Planting “noise buffers” composed of trees and shrubs can reduce noise by five to ten decibels for every 30 m width of woodland, especially sharp tones, and this reduces noise to the human ear by approximately 50%. To achieve this effect, the species and the planting design must be chosen carefully.


The effective management and extension and creation of new woodland areas helps to screen noise and pollution, restore and enhance degraded landscapes, provide recreational opportunities, improve health and well-being and also help mitigate climate change and contribute to floodplain management.

The successful growth of trees in urban areas is dependent on a number of factors, including the species type. The Right Tree for a Changing Climate database can help to determine the most appropriate tree for a location and aid in the management of trees in urban green space.

Current action

Generalised recommendations to reduce noise with rows of trees and shrubs include:

  • Plant the noise buffer close to the noise source (rather than close to the area to be protected).
  • Plant trees/shrubs as close together as the species will allow and not be overly inhibited.
  • When possible use plants with dense foliage. A diversity of tree species, with a range of foliage shapes and sizes within the noise buffer may also improve noise reduction.
  • Foliage of the plants should persist from the ground up. A combination of shrubs and trees may be necessary to achieve this effect.
  • Evergreen varieties that retain their leaves will give better year-round protection.
  • When possible use tall plants. Where the use of tall trees is restricted, use combinations of shorter shrubs and tall grass or similar soft ground cover as opposed to harder paved surfaces.

Case study

The East London green grid is a long-term project to develop a network of greenspaces along the Thames Gateway, South Essex. The project is intended to offer a range of benefits including:

  • Contribution to flood management, improved air and water quality and noise abatement
  • Enabling diversity of wildlife habitats and landscapes in town and countryside
  • Connection of new communities with existing neighbourhoods, the regenerated riverside, local attractions and the countryside, providing improved “access for all”
  • Conservation and enhancing existing green space and links
  • Creation of high quality new green space and links in areas of opportunity and need
  • Creation of a sense of place through enhancement of landscape character and heritage
  • Enhancing the image and confidence in south Essex as a quality place to live, work and invest
  • Engaging all communities in the planning, management and celebration of the network
  • Planning and promoting the network as part of a sustainable transport system
  • Promoting the network for recreation and tourism, education and healthy living.

Further information

Bell, S. (1999). Tranquillity mapping as an aid to forest planning. Forestry Commission Information Note 16. Forestry Commission, Edinburgh.

CL:AIRE (2009). Integrated remediation, reclamation and greenspace creation on brownfield land(PDF-576K). Subr:im bulletin, CLA:IRE.

Doick, K. and Hutchings, T. (2007). Greenspace establishment on brownfield land: the site selection and investigation process. Forestry Commission Information Note 91. Forestry Commission, Edinburgh.

Faculty of Public Health (2010). Great outdoors: How our natural health services uses green space to improve well-being. Natural England.

Forestry and Woodlands Partnership (2006). The Draft South East Plan. What’s in it for Forestry and Woodlands?(PDF-495K) Forestry Commission, England.

Greenspace (2007). The links between green space and health: A critical literature review. Executive summary. Greenspace, Scotland.

Land Use Consultants (2004). Making the links: greenspace and quality of life. Scottish Natural Heritage Commissioned Report No. 060 (ROAME No. F03AB01).

Macmillan, D. and Bateman, I. (2000). Non-market benefits of forestry: phase 1. Report to the Forestry Commission.

WHO Collaborating Centre for Healthy Urban Environments (2010). Spatial determinants of health in urban settings. Evidence Review. University of West of England, Bristol.

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