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15.12.2016 - Ausgabe: 6/2016

Living and doing sport in a city - on reconciliation of interests between sport development and noise protection

by Klaus Hebborn, Member of the "Deutscher Städtetag" cooperation of German regions and cities, responsible for education, culture, sport and equal opportunities


Living and sport are significant elements of urbanity and quality of life in our cities. They are uses which supplement each other and which must be possible in locations near each other. After publication of the Leipzig Charta, the mission statement changed from a functionally structured city to that of a mixed-function and spatially enclosed city which developed further and renewed itself through internal development. Internal development in this sense means above all that the cities become able to allow meaningful or desired utilisation mixes – in this case living and sport.

This makes a fair and long-term stable reconciliation between the interests of active athletes in use of sports facilities in the (close) vicinity of their homes on the one side and the equally justified requirements for peace and quiet in the neighbourhood of these sporting facilities on the other hand. This kind of reconciliation excludes an unlimited use of sports facilities just as much as their relegation to the outskirts of the city.


Problem area and causes

The German sports facilities noise protection legislation (Sportanlagenlärmschutzverordnung, 18. BImSchV), which became valid in 1991, has always been aligned towards reconciliation of different interests and has basically proven successful in community use. It ensures that sports facilities have a privileged position in comparison to other forms of use such as leisure-time and industrial complexes, corresponding to the political objective of promoting school and club sport. At the same time, in recent years, an increasing number of conflicts have arisen from the co-existence of sporting and living requirements, above all in densely populated conglomerates, which often resulted in legal charges and court actions. In many cases, these cases led to a limitation of the use of sporting facilities which have a major negative effect on organised sport.

The following developments are among the direct causes for this situation:


  • Dense construction in urban areas  in combination with so-called advancing residential construction;
  • An increase in the noise load for the population (e. g. from traffic) and lower tolerance levels towards (sport)noise;
  • A concentration of the use of sports facilities to hours in the late afternoon and evening as well as at weekends as a result of different social developments such as changes to school hours (G8 – increase in day schools), changes in the work environment or changing leisure-time and sport behaviour;
  • Endangering or loss of the so-called "existing facility bonus" through modernisation of sports facilities, resulting in limitation of use or closing of sports facilities;
  • Additional regulations and requirements for passive noise protection in connection with major investments and costs;
  • Different treatment of "children's noise" depending on whether this results from activities inside or outside of standardised sports facilities.


Possible solutions and measures

The coalition contract for the current legislation period of the German parliament includes the target of taking into sufficient account the interests of sport in noise emission conflict situations and to consider a revision of the relevant legal regulations.

The intended reconciliation of interests should be achieved through a bundle of differentiated measures whereby the noise emission protection regulations and the sport facility noise protection directive should be taken into consideration as well as building laws. An uncomplicated one-time increase in permissible emission values may create a legally superficial improvement for the sport, but it remains to be doubted, whether this alone can achieve a real, stable and sustainable solution.

In fact, a bundle of measures are necessary which can above all, be understood and accepted by the population and which have been worked out locally together with the people affected.

It should be basically attempted to work in accordance with one legal requirement valid throughout the nation. The introduction of a federal state clause as was proposed by the free and hanseatic city of Hamburg at one point, is considered critically as the danger exists that conflicts would delegated to regional and community level creating a fragmentation of the law and further areas of legal uncertainty.

Focus should be on revision and possible adaptation of emission protection legislation as well as clarification of building law related possibilities to achieve a reconciliation of the interests.

Based on these premises the following changes to the existing noise emission protection laws should be considered in particular:


  1. The so-called "existing facility bonus" for sports facilities built before 1991 must be guaranteed. Through substantiation, it should be ensured that sporting activities should continue to be possible even after modernisation and changes in use (e.g. conversion of a clay surface into an artificial turf pitch) as well as in the case of slightly exceeding the noise protection values. The free and hanseatic city of Hamburg and the federal German state of North Rhine Westphalia have already enacted decrees to this end which could be taken as basis for a federally valid regulation.


  1. Taking into account changing sport and leisure-time habits of the population, existing noise abatement periods should be revised, in this case the midday quiet period on Sundays and public holidays (abolition of quiet periods on Sundays and public holidays between 13.00 and 15.00 hrs as per. § 2 Abs.5 SALVO). In addition, the noise protection laws should make allowance for sporting activities being possible in the evening until 22.00 hrs.


  1. The laws governing the privilege of children's noise from day nurseries and playgrounds dating from 2011 state that noise caused by children in a residential environment is considered to be "socially adequate" (i.e. even though something may fulfil the requirements of legislation to be considered against the law, it is not to be considered a crime if it occurs during normal, conventionally acceptable activity.) This privilege only applies to children (not youngsters) and only to those children active in day nursery premises or on children's playgrounds. This children's noise privilege should, in the meaning of equal opportunities, be extended to cover sports and leisure-time facilities.


Along with these mentioned changes to noise emission regulations, other possibilities for action by communities should also be made use of to achieve comprises and solutions for conflict situations. In the construction or building permit procedures in particular, reconciliation of interests can be achieved and sustainably safeguarded. Within the framework of this procedure the possibility for citizen participation should also be actively and comprehensively made use of.

Close cooperation between the responsible community expert agencies, in particular environmental and sport administration, and sports clubs and local residents should be taken more into account in future with regard to finding solutions as well as preventing or deescalating conflicts, as has already proved successful in many cities.



Overall, it can be stated that binding legal regulations for noise protection are necessary. There is a wide consensus between regions, communities and organised sport regarding the proposed changes to existing legislation. Federal government is now called on to quickly implement these changes into applicable legislation. Legal requirements do not, however, replace the necessary communication between the local parties affected. A readiness for compromise and constructive cooperation are in the end, the key to ensuring that sport and living will remain possible in cities and communities in future.


Klaus Hebborn

Member and Head of Sport of the Deutscher Städtetag


´Photo: Jacob Lund - fotolia.com





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