Approximately 650 thousand hectares of the Netherlands are designated as quiet area. More than half of these are located in the Waddenzee and the waters of Zeeland. A quiet area is an area that is kept as quiet as possible. In a quiet area, noise is only permitted which is necessary to maintain and use the area, such as the noise of tractors, a milking machine or chainsaws (forestry work).
Need for silence
People need places where there is peace and quiet. Quiet green areas can also help people to recover from stress. It is preferable for these areas to be close to home.
Quiet areas are dominated by natural sounds. However, the peace and quiet can still be disturbed, for example by background noise from motorways. Provincial governments define the borders of quiet areas in provincial environmental policy plans. The aim is to keep the noise exposure in quiet areas below 40 decibels. A dispensation has to be applied for to the provincial government for activities in a quiet area which cause noise.
If you would like to find out where you can cycle or walk in peace and quiet, please study the quiet areas on the map. A number of the provincial governments also have their own maps with quiet areas, for example Noord-Holland.
A peaceful environment can be relaxing. Spending time in a peaceful environment offers an opportunity to recover from the nuisance caused by a noisy residential or work environment.
It is preferable for these quiet or peaceful areas to be close to home. This means that the sources of nuisance and the possibility to recover are not too far apart and are accessible to large numbers of people. For that reason, quiet locations in towns or cities are also important.
People who live in a noisy environment, such as close to Schiphol airport, appear to have a greater need for areas of peace and quiet than people who do not experience any nuisance at home.
Visitors to green recreation areas are irritated by noise from traffic and industry and from more occasional sources such as mopeds, dirt bikes and building activities. How irritated they are depends on, among other things, personal factors, the type of recreation area, the activity they are involved in and how long the unwanted noise continues.
Legislation for quiet areas
The term 'quiet area' was originally used in the Noise Abatement Act (Bulletin of Acts, Orders and Decrees, 1979). That law described quiet areas as 'areas in which the noise exposure due to human activities is so low that it does not disturb, or scarcely disturbs, the natural sounds in that area'. In 1993, the article on quiet areas in the Noise Abatement Act was dropped and the legal framework was incorporated into the Environmental Management Act.
The quiet areas include, in any event, the areas designated in the Nature Conservation Act as protected (national) natural monument and the areas which are designated as waterbird sanctuaries. In connection with the latter the implementation of the Agreement relating to wetlands is of international importance, in particular sanctuaries for waterbirds.
The provincial governments are responsible for designating quiet areas
According to Article 4.9 of the Environmental Management Act the provincial governments have to adopt a provincial environmental policy plan once every four years. In this plan they designate areas in which special protection is needed to preserve the quality of the environment or aspects thereof. These areas are referred to as environmental protection areas. In the case of quiet areas the focus is on the aspect of peace and quiet. In addition, the Provincial Council is required to adopt a provincial environmental ordinance which includes rules which prevent or limit noise pollution in quiet areas (Article 1.2).
Rules for noise in quiet areas
In quiet areas, a target value for noise applies of no more than 40 decibels on average over a period of 24 hours. In order to keep the noise exposure in quiet areas under this noise level, a dispensation has to be applied for from the provincial government for certain activities. No strict legal threshold value applies because it is considered impossible to implement and enforce.
Noise exposure in a quiet area is not calculated or measured. The provincial government can therefore not assess whether the noise exposure is higher than the target value. The assumption is that the target value is achieved via zoning plans and the setting of rules for activities in quiet areas.
The way to experience a quiet area
- Do not make any noise if you are in a quiet area.
- If you observe rules being violated in a quiet area, you should report this to the provincial government.
- Some nature and environmental federations ask people to inform them of their experiences of peace and quiet in quiet areas. For example, the Nature and Environmental Federation in Drenthe has asked walkers in quiet areas to listen out for non-natural sounds and to register how these disturbed the experience on a measurement form.