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Government Guidance on Construction and Building Site Working Time Relaxation

Council Position on Extended Construction Hours

The Coronavirus epidemic has had a major impact in many areas of commercial activity that is essential for the smooth running of the country including the construction industry.  The government has identified the fact that the construction industry needs to have extended working hours to ensure safe working systems that comply the “social distancing” rules.

As a result the government has issued a Ministerial Communication that indicated that planning authorities should be flexible and allow temporary extensions to normal working hours.  Where the changes are longer term or are a more significant change to working hours they need to apply to the local planning authority for permission to do so.  The government has indicated that local authorities should not refuse requests to extend working hours till 21:00 hours Monday to Saturday without compelling reasons.

To protect residents the government has made clear that it expects the adoption of best practical means to mitigate the impacts of noise, dust or vibration on residents.  The government has indicated that relaxation of working hours conditions granted by local planning authorities should not extend beyond 13 May 2021.

The council’s involvement will depend on the nature of the application.  If the application is for a relaxation of planning conditions they should apply to  the Planning Authority who will consult with the Environmental Protection Team.  If there are no planning conditions the Environmental Protection Team (EPT) will deal with the matter.

Standard working hours are considered to be;

  • 08.00 hrs to 18.00 hrs Monday to Friday,
  • 08.00 hrs to 13.00 hrs Saturday,
  • No Noisy working on Sundays or Bank Holidays

If there is an application to extend these hours we will expect appropriate documents to justify the need for the extension and to a Noise Management Plan (NMP) to ensure that any impact on residents is minimised.  This would include measures addressing,

  • Justification of the need to work outside normal hours.
  • Arrival of Staff – we can accommodate steps to ensure that staff can arrive safely and comply with “social distancing”
  • Delivery of materials – We do not envisage any need for deliveries of construction materials outside standard times.
  • Noisy work – we would expect that noisy work be curtailed to standard times where possible. It may be possible to utilise distance and screening so that noisy work outside standard hours is done where it is furthest away and most screened. It could be that work is scheduled so that the noisy work is done during standard hours such as Piling, excavating, grinding, cutting etc and that quieter work such as brick laying is scheduled to run later.
  • Supervision and control – with extended hours it is vitally important that extra vigilance is utilised to assess noise and dust that originates outside standard hours. Monitoring and control are key issues here.
  • We have no issues with any work that is not audible beyond the site boundary being taken at any time though we would like to ensure that excessive lighting does not become an issue.
  • Always ensuring that Best Practical Means are employed.
  • Communication with residents by way of a letter drop to residents around the site who could potentially be affected giving the background to the extension, the commitment to mitigate disturbance to a minimum and perhaps a contact name so that any valid complaints or issues can be addressed swiftly.

The Environmental Protection Team would like to avoid justifiable complaints but in general will be happy to work with you to increase working hours within a framework that minimises the impact on the local residents. If you would like to discuss this or any other matter further please contact me at the address, email or telephone number given below.

Contact Details

For planning condition relaxation applications contact:

Planning Technical Team

Telephone 01892 554604

Email planning@tunbridgewells.gov.uk

For Environmental Health restriction relaxation applications contact:

Environmental Health Admin Team

Telephone 01892 602450

Email EHAdmin@midkent.gov.uk


Construction update: Written statement - HLWS230

My Rt Hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (Robert Jenrick) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement:

Our Plan to Rebuild: the UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy published by the Government on Monday 11 May makes clear that construction work can be undertaken across England providing sites are able to operate safely in line with the new COVID-19 Secure guidelines. A number of developers have already announced plans to restart work on sites.

In doing so, the Government recognises that the construction industry needs to be able to adapt its normal practices. As part of this, temporary extensions to working hours may be required on some sites to facilitate safe working and allow tasks to be completed where social distancing can be challenging. Longer working hours may also be needed to facilitate social distancing in the wider community, for instance by reducing pressure on public transport. It might be necessary to start work earlier in the day or work until later in the evenings.

However, many construction sites in England are subject to controls which restrict their hours of operation. These controls include planning conditions, which might directly restrict working hours or which might restrict working hours through a construction management plan. These conditions may be necessary, for example, to make the development acceptable to local residents and businesses who might otherwise suffer from traffic, noise and other local amenity issues.

The purpose of this Written Ministerial Statement is to make clear that, with immediate effect, local planning authorities should take a swift and positive approach to requests from developers and site operators for greater flexibility around construction site working hours. This is to ensure that, where appropriate, planning conditions are not a barrier to allowing developers the flexibility necessary to facilitate the safe operation of construction sites during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to proceed at pace with work otherwise delayed as a result of COVID-19.

The National Planning Policy Framework already emphasises that planning enforcement is a discretionary activity and local planning authorities should act proportionately in responding to suspected breaches of planning control.

Where only a short term or modest increase to working hours is required, local planning authorities should, having regard to the reason for the condition and to their legal obligations, not seek to undertake enforcement action.

Where developers require longer term or more significant changes to working hours, they should apply to the local planning authority to temporarily amend a condition or a construction management plan in the usual way. In doing so, it will be important for applicants to consider potential impacts and, where necessary, to put forward brief plans to manage concerns, drawing on existing good practice. In return, local planning authorities should respond speedily and sympathetically and engage positively with applicants to find solutions. Local authorities should prioritise these types of applications and give early clarity on the acceptability of extended hours to developers. They should ensure that decisions are issued quickly – with the aim of doing so within 10 working days.

In allowing greater flexibility, the Government recognises the need to mitigate the impact that any temporary relaxation of working hours could have on local residents and businesses. Requests to extend working hours should be proportionate and should not involve working on Sundays or bank holidays.

However, local authorities should not refuse requests to extend working hours until 9pm, Monday to Saturday without very compelling reasons for rejection. In some cases, such as in areas without residential properties, extending working hours beyond this, including allowing 24 hour working where appropriate, may be justified. In all cases, sympathetic site management should be demonstrated to mitigate local impacts and local authorities should show best endeavours to facilitate such requests.

Applications should only be refused where there are very compelling reasons such as significant impact on neighbouring businesses or uses which are particularly sensitive to noise, dust or vibration, which cannot be overcome through other mitigation, or where impacts on densely populated areas would be unreasonable.

Any temporary changes to construction working hours conditions granted by local planning authorities should not extend beyond 13 May 2021.

This Statement covers England only. The need for the Statement will be reviewed when the requirement for social distancing on construction sites diminishes.

This statement has also been made in the House of Commons: HCWS234

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