Construction sites catching up after lockdown? Three essential steps to extended hours working.
Updated: Jun 29, 2020
On 13th May 2020 the Government announced a temporary extension to working hours for construction sites that would allow sites to operate until 9pm except on Sundays and Bank Holidays. This applies in England only and will apply for a year. On 25th June the Government published new legislation and draft guidance for a fast track deemed consent route where working hours are limited by planning conditions. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/construction-working-hours-draft-guidance/draft-guidance-construction-site-hours-deemed-consent
The Government expects local planning authorities to approve applications to extend working hours until 9pm, Monday to Saturday unless there are “compelling reasons” not to do so. Unreasonable noise disturbance could be one of these compelling reasons.
Construction works are inherently noisy activities, and in areas with residential or business neighbours there is a risk of complaints about works that are considered to be too noisy. Added to that, during the pandemic, more people are at home; working, furloughed and/or looking after children, while there is less background noise from traffic to mask construction noise. All this means a heightened sensitivity to noise can be expected.
There are 3 things that all construction sites should do if they are planning to use the extension and work later into the evening to allow social distancing, staggered travel to site or to catch up from delays caused by the pandemic: Check, Plan and Communicate.
1. Check whether your working hours restrictions are from a planning condition
The Government announcement was specifically in relation to enforcement of planning conditions.
If your hours are restricted by planning condition, or you don't have any restrictions on hours, we recommend that you apply online via the fast track deemed consent route.
However, hours could be restricted by a notice or consent under the Control of Pollution Act 1974 (COPA) instead which does not seem to have been covered by the Government statement.
If your hours are restricted under s60 or s61 of COPA you will need to contact the local authority Environmental Health Department to check what the process would be to extend the hours. If you were to work beyond the hours in your consent or notice without doing this it could end up in prosecution.
Unsure which of these apply? Give us a call and we will help you work it out.
You may need to complete a noise assessment with calculations of noise emissions, which a reputable noise consultant such as Red Kite Acoustics can help you with.
2. Plan the works you will need to do in the evening
Do you need to continue working as normal in the extended hours period, or could you plan to reduce noisy activities later in the day?
It is common for lower noise limits to be set in the evenings than during the day time and so it would be advisable to review your operations and BPM measure to minimise and where possible reduce your off site noise levels during the extended period. For example you could reduce or stop the use of certain plant and equipment after 7pm (such as piling, excavating or grinding) and use the evenings for quieter works, or you may want to look at locating evening activities in areas that are screened or furthest away from neighbours. We are happy to advise on these noise management measures as well as noise monitoring.
3. Communicate with your neighbours
At Red Kite Acoustics we are strong advocates of the importance of communication with your neighbours. Taking away uncertainty by explaining what you will be doing, when, and why can reduce anxiety, and providing a contact number for concerns can give you the opportunity to resolve matters informally without the need for complaints to the local authority. Consider a regular leaflet drop, a notice board on the site boundary, or even using social media so that neighbours know what to expect and who to contact with concerns.
With the right planning and communication construction sites can work later into the evening without causing unreasonable disturbance or nuisance to their neighbours.
Red Kite Acoustics can help you on all aspects of managing construction site noise including assessments, monitoring, and communication with neighbours and regulators.