Control of Noise from Building Sites
Section 60 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 refers to noise caused through the construction, repair or demolition of buildings. It provides discretionary powers to the local authority which enable them to serve a notice specifying how those works are to be carried out in terms of the hours of operation; and thereby limit noise from building sites. (See here for DIY noise).
Many local authorities will typically recommend (usually verbally or via their websites) that noisy works are limited to take place between the hours of 8am and 6pm Monday-Friday, 8am-2pm Saturday with no noisy works permitted on Sundays and Bank Holidays. However, the “Section 60” powers allow works to be controlled formally through a legislative power. It involves a notice being served on the person carrying out the works (usually the company making the noise at the building site). The notice may specify requirements as to the way in which the works are carried out – most commonly specifying the permitted hours for noisy works to take place.
Hours can vary though and evening and weekend works may be permitted in certain circumstances. Unless formal policies are in place hours and other requirements should be considered according to the particulars of the individual construction project and surrounding area.
If you are concerned about noise from building works you can contact your local authority. They may initially visit the site or contact the person carrying out the works to discuss the issue and may wish to resolve the matter informally first. It is not until they serve a notice that the conditions come into effect. The decision to serve the notice is discretionary. However, they do not need to witness noise themselves before serving the notice.
Failure to comply with any requirement of a s.60 notice without reasonable excuse is an offence.
Exceptions and Discretion
Many local authorities have joint or internal policies relating to working hours relating to noise from building sites and may recommend suitable hours of operation. A local authority policy can be a useful guide for enforcers and can help provide a consistent approach for developers. It should not, however, determine the outcome of enforcement action with respect to each case as there will often be circumstances where the discretion of the local authority is warranted. Examples include:
- Allowing extended weekend works where they are located next to a school and community centre (even if it disturbs a number of local residents).
- Restricting the breaking out of concrete in the daytime next to a city office block and allowing extended evening activity.
If a notice is required, the legislation allows the authority to take individual circumstances into account and make specific references to what type of works are undertaken and when. Local authorities must therefore consider the hours appropriate in each case and not by reference to a set of inflexible local rules. The important thing is that local authorities must not fetter their discretion in such cases and, as such, should not be bound by internal policies.
The officer involved should be able to provide a reasonable explanation of why those particular hours were imposed in each case and assure that any relevant considerations raised have not been ignored. It will normally be expected that, in order to do this, enforcers will need to discuss any legitimate issues the person carrying out the work might have before service of the notice.
Construction companies often partake in schemes to reduce noise and nuisance and limit the effect of construction projects on the local community. The considerate constructors scheme is one example.