Construction Site Noise


IMPORTANT - Construction Noise Complaints - Coronavirus: Government Construction Site Update 13 May 2020

The Government has published a ministerial statement on planning and construction working hours which will change how complaints of noise regarding construction activities will be investigated by local authorities.

The Government statement expects local planning authorities to approve requests to extend construction working hours temporarily to support safe working in line with social distancing guidelines until 9pm, Monday to Saturday, unless there are very compelling reasons against approving.

In effect, developers can expect the authority to grant temporary changes to construction working hours until 9pm or later, 6 days a week.

Whilst Milton Keynes Council will be requesting that developers restrict their noisiest activities to previous ‘normal’ working hours, it is to be anticipated that if you live in the vicinity of a construction site you should expect to experience increased activity later into the evening.

We appreciate this situation is not ideal and may well lead to further interference with peoples’ home lives. Complaints made about construction work being undertaken outside of normal hours will be logged by us and we will be reviewing complaint trends. We will liaise with site operators where we think operations can be altered to reduce noise impact but it is unlikely that we will be seeking to enforce previous site working hours.

At present, we do not know what impact this is likely to have on noise complaint numbers and the noise team is operating in a restricted way. In light of this, if you make a complaint, please expect a standard response email or letter advising that your complaint has been received, reviewed and logged by us with appropriate action taken.

Construction Site Noise and Dust

Milton Keynes is the fastest developing city in the country, which means there is a lot of new building. This construction activity can be either on one small plot, or an estate, either way, it can cause problems to those living nearby.

Each year, the Council receives over a hundred complaints from people affected by noise, dust and other problems from construction sites.

The Council has enforcement powers to deal with environmental problems arising from construction working. However, when we become aware of a problem our first action is to discuss the situation with the site operators. We often find that site operators are unaware of the problems they may be causing and once it is brought to their notice they are only too happy to co-operate in taking action to deal with the problem.

We recommend all operators of construction sites in Milton Keynes to join the Considerate Contractors Scheme and adhere to their Code of Considerate Practice.

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The legislation concerning this area, which the Council enforces, is complex and the issue with construction noise is where the lines are blurred between the Control of Pollution Act 1974 (CoPA) and statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA).

In General, the times when the Council regards construction as being  acceptable in Milton Keynes, under the Control of Pollution Act 1974 is:

  • 8am-6pm Monday to Friday
  • 8am-1pm Saturday
  • No works on Sundays or Bank Holiday’s.

where it covers the following works:

(a) the erection, construction, alteration, repair or maintenance of buildings, structures or roads;

(b) breaking up, opening or boring under any road or adjacent land in connection with the construction, inspection, maintenance or removal of works;

(c) demolition or dredging work; and

(d) (whether or not also comprised in paragraph (a), (b) or (c) above) any work of engineering construction.

As a rule of thumb, the Council would generally apply the Control of Pollution Act for large scale developments i.e. the Western Expansion Area, where a big developer is involved. The Council would generally  only look to instigate legal proceedings if the company are trying to push a project along with early starts, late finishes and weekend working outside of the Control of Pollution Act timings.

The Council wouldn’t, generally speaking, look at statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990  for the big developers.

Statutory Nuisance

Someone undertaking a DIY project might do so of a weekend, if they’re working all week, which would be deemed ‘reasonable’ taking into consideration the duration of the works and time of day its being undertaken, so the Council probably would not look to enforce the Control of Pollution Act timings in those instances. It’s reasonable to assume that people will undertake decoration and renovation of their own properties from time to time and that it will create some noise which neighbours might find objectionable so, under these circumstances the Council would look to see if what they are doing is ‘reasonable’ in terms of the time of day.

Statutory nuisance does not have rigid timings associated with it, that is to say there are no legally set times when noise can or cannot be created. If however someone is hammering in nails at midnight, that would be unreasonable to most people on any day, so likely to be a nuisance (depending on context) and actionable under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. To be fair and reasonable the Council has to weigh up the frequency, intensity and duration of the noise to determine the impact and the likelihood of it being a statutory nuisance.

Whether you are a resident affected by a construction site, or you are a developer seeking advice to minimise the impact of your site and you need more information or advice, please contact the Regulatory Unit via 01908 252398 or preferably by e-mail.

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Last Updated: 18 August 2021