Introduction & Context
Since the re-start of construction work following the easing of lock-down, many residents have flagged an unacceptable increase in dust, noise and vibration from the sites operating around us. As a result we made contact with Planning Officers at Chelmsford City Council to ensure they were aware of the issues and to ask whether anything could be done to mitigate against them and reduce the impact on the surrounding area. Our concerns were also brought to the attention of local City Councillors.
Given that construction across all of the sites is going to continue for many months to come, we need to be assured that constructors are continually re-assessing approved Health & Safety Plans to ensure that the impact on the surrounding areas is kept to a minimum. We also need assurance that approved working hours are adhered to as we have evidence that this has not been the case.
The City Council has taken the concerns seriously and responses have been received from Planners, local Councillors and developers. The current position, based on initial feedback from the developers involved, is outlined below. Whilst responses from the developers are largely as expected, the issues raised are receiving careful consideration and have been passed to the council Public Health team so that they can investigate accordingly.
It should be noted that due to the COVID-19 situation, the government are encouraging local authorities to be more flexible with working restrictions to overcome social distancing measures. As you will note from the narrative below, Home Group (Pompadour) has been granted an amendment to working hours. Countryside has also requested the same and although none of their sites directly border Channels, some of their traffic does pass adjacent to the L&Q development site.
Beaulieu Zones K & L (London & Quadrant)
This part of Beaulieu, which is on the other side of Bridleway 18 running adjacent to the southern border of the Bellway development, is being delivered by Countryside’s Registered Provider London & Quadrant (L&Q), independent of Countryside.
L&Q have recently obtained approval for their Construction Environmental Management Plan and Construction Method Statement. The documents state that hours of working will be limited to those listed in the planning permission. The outline planning permission contains the following informative which L&Q should be adhering to in relation to working hours and noise:
“To ensure that the construction of the approved development will cause minimum nuisance to neighbours, the applicant is strongly advised to follow guidelines for acceptable working hours as set out by the Council’s Environmental Health Service. They recommend that noisy work should be limited to 8.00am to 6.00pm Monday to Friday and 8.00am to 1.00pm on Saturdays. Light work is acceptable (beyond the hours set out above) between 7.00am-8.00am and 6.00pm-7.00pm on Mondays to Fridays. At all other times including Sundays and Bank Holidays, no work should be carried out that is audible beyond the boundary of the site. Please note that in some circumstances further restrictions may be necessary.”
L&Q have confirmed that they are adhering to the permitted operating hours and that their groundwork contractors conduct a daily briefing from 7:30am-8:00am on site, commencing work from 8:00am. The construction access road, which runs through the L&Q development, is currently utilised by Countryside with traffic permitted to travel through the site from 7.00am.
L&Q will not be looking to extend their working hours.
There is also a requirement in relation to dust suppression to ensure there are measures in place to address the issues which we are experiencing, and which can be checked for compliance. L&Q has advised that they are adhering to the Construction Environmental Management Plan in relation to the suppression of dust on site. The groundwork contractor has confirmed that they implement the damping down regime throughout operating hours with jet wash and jet browser.
L&Q believe this is sufficient and meets the needs but if there are further complaints they are willing to action further measures to mitigate against this. The issues raised have been flagged with the council Public Health Team who will review feedback received to determine whether any action is required.
Channels Phase 4 (Marden Homes/The Lakes)
Marden Homes are sorry to hear of our concerns. Whilst dust suppression is being carried out as per the approved Construction Method Statement there have clearly been some challenges since working practices have begun to return to normal, not least the incredibly dry period we have experienced over the course of May. The Site Manager has been asked to monitor this closely.
Road sweepers have also been attending the site however the Site Manager has been asked to increase the frequency of visits. Working hours are being adhered to.
Marden Homes have not sought to amend their approved construction hours.
Channels Phases 3c, 3d & 5 (Home Group/Pompadour)
Hills are the construction contractors and have confirmed that they are following their approved Construction Phase Health & Safety Plan by using dust suppression on all necessary activities and also dampening the site roads; they do note that it is impossible to keep building sites entirely dust free and the absence of any rain in the past 6 weeks coupled with a spell of high winds mean that dust movement during this period will have increased.
The contractor has confirmed that they are not carrying out any unusual activities on site so any noise, dust and nuisance would only be that resulting from living in close proximity to a busy construction site. Hills do have full sympathy with residents who are at home during the day as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, enjoying gardens and wanting to fully open windows whilst the weather is good; inevitably whilst living on a new housing estate there will be some short term disruption but they will continue to use their best endeavours to keep the issues raised to a minimum.
There has been a temporary adjustment of working hours agreed, in light of the delays incurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been discussed with the council Public Health & Protection Service and the changes are as follows:
Saturdays: Change of working hours (8.00am-4.30pm)
A maximum of 30 members of staff will be on site ranging from the following; bricklayers, roofers, plumbers, plasterers, groundworkers and painters. Works will include installation of rear garden patios and paths, block pave driveways and fencing. There may be occasional work to roofs dependent on when these are installed which may involve nail guns, but not every Saturday. All other works will be internal.
The good news is that Hills has confirmed that all major foundation works are now complete on their site so there should be a reduction generally in dust, noise and vibration.
The Principal Planning Officer has fully briefed the Public Health team and they have now assigned an officer to fully investigate our concerns and those already aired by other Channels residents. The officer has had sight of all correspondence thus far and has been provided with the site manager contact details for the construction sites for which we have voiced concern.
Until such time that the investigation is concluded, and if you have concerns about the level of noise from any of the construction sites that may be outside permitted working hours, you can contact Chelmsford City Council Environmental Services Customer Support here.