ACT childcare centres are exempt from noise restrictions.

ACT childcare centres are exempt from noise restrictions. Photo: Peter Stoop

Noise from child care centres could be exceeding suburban sound limits, but ACT law exempts the facilities from the restrictions.

The ACT Environmental Protection Agency's limit for daytime noise levels in residential areas is 45 decibels

An Association of Australian Acoustic Consultants report shows the typical range for a group of 10 children aged 0 to 6 ranged from 77 to 90 dB – double the EPA limit.

The Canberra Times today reported a Campbell couple had lost a bid to have noise abatement panels - similar to those installed along busy motorways - erected around a neighbouring childcare centre.

P.W. and A.M.H. Tormey, who live about 45 metres from the centre, told an ACT tribunal that clearview panels, similar to those used along Fairbairn Avenue, should be erected around the playground perimeter.

Campbell Cottage Child Care Centre earlier this year received planning approval to increase its operating capacity to cater for 66 children and 14 staff.

But the Tormeys argued the expansion would lead to a 20 per cent increase in vehicle movements, causing noise and traffic issues for neighbouring residents.

The stoush over the development ended up in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which this month ruled in favour of the ACT Planning and Land Authority.

The couple said the existing noise created by the centre was already "grossly excessive".

The acoustician association report, from 2008, said the sound level of children playing varies depending on the age and activity the infants are engaged in.

But the EPA restrictions only apply to specific activities and operations and do not cover the noise produced by children playing at a child care centre.

AECOM associate director Nigel Burton said ACT noise limits exclude activities such as a person using only his or her body or motor vehicles being driven on a public street.

But the experienced acoustic consultant said extra traffic noise generated by a 20 per cent increase in vehicle movements at the centre could be considered under EPA law.

Despite the laws, Mr Burton said the Tormey's could have a genuine gripe.

“In my experience, noise from child care centres and schools can be of concern to residential neighbours, particularly in relation to use of outdoor play areas,” Mr Burton said.

He said the AAAC guidelines provide a good basis on which noise can be assessed.

Irrespective of laws, the stoush may have provided a small measure of peace to the couple over the past few months.

The Canberra Times understands the case has caused huge disruptions at the childcare centre, with the upgrades subject to continuing delays as the complaint was dealt with by the courts.

Half of the children were moved temporarily to a new site in April this year to allow for the work.

The rest of the children were moved out of the Campbell site in November, but the upgrades are now not expected to be completed until the middle of next year.