Roads are one of the biggest producers of noise in Marbella / josele

Noise to be a determining factor in Marbella's new urban planning map

The town hall’s director of urban planning, José María Morente, points out how the projects will have to include new measures against this type of pollution


The drafting of the new urban development plan is being used to bring Marbella up to date on different issues such as noise pollution, for which there is European, state and regional legislation that requires strategic noise maps to be drawn up for towns and cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants.

As such the new General Plan for Municipal Planning includes the acoustic zoning of the entire town, an environmental issue that is considered when granting planning permission, as permits for new buildings are subject to the adoption of measures against noise. "Noise will very much determine the map," says José María Morente, director of urban planning and housing, who is in charge of drafting the new document.

"It is a concern that 40 years ago neither urban planning nor citizens were concerned about, but now that has changed and this concern has been included in regulations because the urban environment is very aggressive in terms of noise. "The plan's objective is urban quality and the quality of life of the residents, and for that, acoustic quality is necessary," he said.

Change in regulations

To achieve this, the plan calls for a change in the existing regulations regarding noise. "Currently, we have them regulated by ordinance and by plots of land. That is to say, if a plot is a single-family detached house, it has a residential use and compatible uses such as offices, for example. But now, instead of regulating by plots of land, we will regulate by zones and not so much by type of building, which is related to noise. There will be building by-laws and when it comes to establishing uses, noise will be taken into account," he pointed out.

"We can't allow more noise producers where there are already noise producers. Instead, we can put in a green area whose trees will also serve as a natural acoustic barrier," he explained by way of example.

The first thing they looked at was a "study the uses of each area" in which it is noted that Marbella is primarily residential. "The uses of each area, normally residential, but there are also industrial, where noise affects in different ways, commercial, sports facilities, or areas with more sensitive uses such as schools or hospitals, are drawn on a map. This is how the sensitivity of each area to noise is determined."

Seven types of noise

In total there are seven types of noise: residential; industrial; recreational and entertainment; tourist or tertiary, health, educational and cultural uses; general transport infrastructure systems; and natural areas of special protection against noise pollution. Each of these has its own decibel limits divided according to the time of day into morning, afternoon and night,” Morente explained.

"Then there is another study in which the sources that emit noise are collected. Fundamentally, the sources that emit noise are airports, railways, roads... In the case of Marbella it is the roads and the map shows how far the noise from these main roads reaches," Morente explained. With these two documents, the affected areas are crossed and observed. "With the cross-referenced map, noise limits are set which are established by the regulations in the morning, afternoon and night," he added.

This is done so that the projects to be implemented take into account both the optimum and maximum levels, so that specific noise elimination measures are adopted. Thus, initiatives such as the new hotels planned in the eastern part of Marbella already include the installation of noise barriers. "Among the measures that can be adopted are, for example, screens to eliminate sound, double-glazed windows, walls with certain technical conditions or orientation of the buildings," said the director.

In this way, "when any action is taken, these criteria will be taken into account, as well as the measures that have to be taken in that building and what uses are going to be allowed”, Morente added.