In principle, combating environmental noise is a competence of the regions. However, in this, also other policy levels play an important role. For example, the federal government is in charge of product standards, and therefore, also of noise emission standards for products.
Sound standards for products
Before a product (a lawn mower, an MP3 player, a vehicle, car tires) is brought on the market, the manufacturer or importer must ensure that the product complies with the product standards for noise emissions. Product standards are established in the European product policy and then converted into national legislation and acted upon by the federal government. For some categories of means of transport, standards and procedures are even determined at an international level.
Although for some categories of products, limiting values on noise emissions apply, yet a product may cause annoyance, e.g. when used during the quiet hours. The regional authorities may impose rules for the use of products in order to limit the noise it causes.
Companies and installations
Apart from the existence of limiting values on sound emissions of separate tools and machines, which are used in a company, the regulation of the noise pollution caused by the company, belongs to the region’s competence. The conditions the companies have to comply with in the area of noise, have been listed in the region environmental legislation. Also, the sound of hotel and catering businesses, reception halls or musical events are regulated in the region environmental legislation. Learn more about this on the websites of Flanders, Wallonia, and The Brussels-Capital Region.
Noise from neighbours (such as mowing the lawn on Sundays or evening noise) can be regulated in municipal or police regulations. Possibly in your municipality, there are specific rules for a number of issues. If you wish to know which regulations are prevailing in your municipality, please contact the environmental service in your municipality or the local police.
Close to motorways and railways, airports, and in the (big) cities, the continuous traffic noise is a problem. That is why the European directive ‘Environmental noise 2002/49/EC’ determines that noise maps have to be drawn up of the noise from the main arterial roads. In Belgium these noise maps are drawn up by the Regions. Based on these noise maps, action plans were worked out with noise reduction measures. Included in these are measures at the source (quieter road surfaces or traffic measures such as a speed reduction), or with the transfer of sound (sound barriers along the road).
Also quieter vehicles and quieter tires help to limit the noise at the source. This belongs to the federal government’s authority (see above “Sound standards for products”).