Noise nuisance - new extended construction hours of operation

On 13 May 2020 the government announced a temporary extension to working hours for the construction industry to facilitate safe working and social distancing on building sites.  The relaxation of these controls relate to restrictions on planning permissions, however there are still safeguards in place to protect residents from being unreasonably disturbed by noise and vibration.

These changes do not affect Ealing Council’s regulations and powers which restrict noisy building and construction works and also set out the hours where noise is permitted in relation to construction and building works (Section 60 and 61 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974).

The hours of operation continue to be:

  • Monday - Friday, 8am - 6pm
  • Saturday, 8am-1pm 
  • No noisy works on Sundays or Bank Holidays

Additionally, construction works are required to be undertaken by employing the best practicable means available to reduce any noise or vibration disturbance.  The council will continue to enforce these hours where residents are being unreasonably disturbed by noisy construction activity.

The council will however seek to strike a balance between the need to support businesses, economic activity and COVID-19 social distancing and the needs of resident’s health and wellbeing. 

Rise in complaints

Since the onset of COVID-19 crisis we have seen a significant rise in the volume of noise complaints and in particular residents raising concerns about building activity. The ongoing lock down restrictions have meant that residents have been confined to their homes and have had to manage home schooling and childcare along with working from home and other COVID related pressures such job security and financial concerns.

This set of stressful circumstances matched with the fact people are having to make do without community and family support networks mean they are potentially both more sensitive and affected by noise and also less able to tolerate or escape that noise.  

Minimise disturbance

Where there are no planning conditions restricting the hours or activity on a development site, or where permission is granted by the Planning Authority to continue out of hours works, we recommend that the following measures be considered and implemented by construction site managers to minimise the risk of causing disturbance to local residents:

  • Construction activity should be phased, so that any noisy work is undertaken during standard daytime hours (8am to 6pm).  Works which will not give rise to disturbance may be undertaken between 6pm-9pm on weekdays or 1pm-9pm on Saturdays. No noisy work should take place on Sunday.  Examples of less noisy works may include cosmetic work, plastering and painting, electrical fitting, plumbing, brick laying, tilling etc.  Any works which require the use of power tools, machinery or work on a party wall is unlikely to be acceptable in circumstances where neighbours are in close proximity.
  • We strongly encourage builders/contractors/developers to engage with affected residents whilst being mindful of not approaching them face-to-face (contact through letter drops, email and phone).  They should be particularly mindful of the individual circumstances of their neighbours who might be home schooling, be a shift worker, working from home or a vulnerable person who is shielding or self-isolating.  Engagement, consultation and informal agreements can often prevent unnecessary disputes from escalating, necessitating investigation and enforcement by the council.
  • Noise disturbance discussions and clear directions to site workers should form party of daily toolbox briefings, with specific instructions on when the use of power tools and other inappropriate machinery should cease. 
  • All unnecessary noise and disturbance should be avoided, including noise from raised voices, radios, car parking etc. 
  • The council will look to be flexible with respect to deliveries to site, however where these generate significant amounts of noise, they should be restricted to the above time restrictions.

Noise complaints

Complaints concerning noisy working after 6pm on weekdays and 1pm on Saturday and at any time on Sunday will be investigated by the council and may result in the service of a Notice under the control of pollution Act 1974, which puts formal controls on the hours of operations on any site.

For further information and advice contact the noise service on 020 8825 8111.