Planning - noise control

Question asked by Sonia Rai

The density of houses and other uses is one of the things that makes the borough as desirable as it is, but it also means we live closer to each other than other boroughs. As a result, construction impacts are sometimes felt more than in other places. The Council’s officers spend considerable time working on behalf of residents to reduce the impacts of construction on residents.

Our work to minimise the construction impact from basement developments has been at the forefront of this. We were one of the first councils, if not the first, to:

  • recognise that construction noise and other impacts could be taken into account in deciding planning applications;
  • widen the use of plans to control construction traffic from just the biggest developments to include basement developments; and
  • reduce hours when noisy construction might take place to 8am - 6pm Monday to Friday (and not at weekends) through our Construction Code of Practice.

As part of our efforts to improve the lives of residents further, councillors recently agreed to start a piece of work to review and widen our Construction Code of Practice.

We are also in the second phase of what is proving to be a successful pilot, bringing together various enforcement roles across the Council to be more joined up. The pilot will, we hope, lead to residents being able to report concerns to a single point with the joining up being done seamlessly behind the scenes.

Our planning permissions all directly refer to our Construction Code of Practice and inform applicants of the hours when noisy work audible beyond the boundary is permitted. We do not use planning conditions to control working hours on site because:

  • conditions on planning permissions have to meet the six tests identified in National Planning Practice Guidance on the GOV.UK website.
  • planning conditions should not normally repeat controls the Council already has under other powers. A planning condition is not “necessary” in those circumstances and so does not meet the requirements of the first test.
  • planning conditions are too inflexible to deal with exceptions. There may be good reasons as part of a building project to allow noisy work outside normal hours for some tasks. This won’t necessarily be known when the planning application is made. To amend that planning condition to allow the exception would have a 6 to 8 week planning decision process, with the associated costs and delays for all parties. Using our Code of Construction Practice allows us to make quick, well informed decisions which do not hold up works and add to costs for our residents.

This is consistent with our approach to enforcement. The important thing for residents is that noisy construction works generally only take place between 8am and 6pm from Monday to Friday. What powers and members of staff we use to achieve it is not important as long as we are joined up and effective.

As part of the current review of the Code of Construction Practice we will give further consideration to how we monitor and enforce the requirements of the final document. We encourage people to take part in the public consultation for that document in the autumn.