Advice for residents affected by demolition and construction sites

The redevelopment of a site where demolition and construction happens will usually cause some conflict with people who live or work nearby. On larger sites, construction may continue for a long time.  

Our role

We ensure the work strikes a reasonable balance between the rights of nearby residents to the reasonable use and enjoyment of their property and the rights of the developer to complete the works without undue restrictions being imposed.   

If you are affected by site activities, site managers often welcome the opportunity to resolve the problem directly with their neighbours. Some site managers and residents build up a ‘working relationship’, which brings advantages for both parties – you could contact the site manager to discuss any problems that you may have.  

Neighbours who feel suitably aggrieved by activities on a site can contact us – we will investigate your complaints and action may be possible to reduce the disturbance caused.   

Noise disturbance

Complaints are often made about excessive noise at unsociable hours of the day. The Control of Pollution Act 1974 gives us the ability to serve a notice on contractors and developers that sets out how works should take place to minimise noise coming from demolition or construction activities.  

Site noise is usually controlled by restricting the hours of noisy operations.  This ensures that noise from the site which can be heard beyond the site boundary will only happen from 8am - 6pm Monday to Friday, 8am - 1pm Saturday, and no noisy work on Sundays and bank holidays.  

If you are experiencing noise from the site outside these hours you should contact us.  We will bring the matter to the attention of the site manager and where necessary serve a notice. Your identity will not be disclosed.  

In cases where continued noise is experienced outside the hours, we will monitor the site as frequently as we can. If sufficient evidence becomes available to demonstrate that the contractor has failed to comply with the requirements of the notice and can offer no ‘reasonable excuse’ (a defence in law) the matter will be referred to our Director of Legal Services.   

Following advice, we may bring legal proceedings against the contractor. In such situations complainants have sometimes been asked to complete a diary detailing noisy works outside the permitted hours and if legal proceedings are taken we may ask them to provide a witness statement and to help give evidence before the court in any prosecution we may bring.  

In some situations noisy working outside the hours may be permitted or the contractor may be able to demonstrate a defence of ‘reasonable excuse’.  These cases are usually rare and are normally the subject of agreement/negotiation with us to ensure that residents are protected as much as the law permits. 

Noise from work during the permitted hours may be difficult to control, however the contractor is required to demonstrate that they are taking the best practicable means to minimise the noise generated.  

Smoke 

Depending upon the type and nature of the site, there may be a need for the removal of large amounts of waste, particularly during demolition.  Some developers will recycle and reuse as much waste as possible, but others may opt to burn as much as possible to reduce costs. While this would seem unreasonable it is not, in principle, an offence. Unless the planning consent includes a condition which prohibits the lighting of fires on site, we cannot stop bonfires.

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 however gives us the power to control smoke coming from burning waste on site. In cases where complaints have been received, or we have reason to believe that burning is to take place and nuisance is likely to occur, an abatement notice may be served upon the contractor prohibiting nuisance and specifying steps to be taken to minimise further disturbance.   

While the notice cannot prohibit further bonfires, it is often the case that contractors would not wish to risk breaching the notice and may decide to cease burning. Where further uncontrolled burning takes place we will monitor the site as frequently as we can, and similar action may be taken against the contractor as with noise complaints. Complainants may also be asked to complete a witness statement.  

In addition, under the Clean Air Act 1993 it is an offence to burn any material which results in the emission of dark smoke. Such material includes rubber, bituminous materials, carpets, plastics, upholstery and insulation materials. You should contact us if you see dark smoke from a site.  

Because it is not an offence to burn site waste it must therefore be accepted that a certain amount of smoke has to be experienced before formal action is possible. For a notice to be served we must be satisfied that smoke from the site is, or is likely to cause, a statutory nuisance. A statutory nuisance is the material interference with the use and enjoyment of a person’s property. 

Unlike noise, smoke is not measurable and officers will make a subjective judgement on whether nuisance exists on the basis of the amount of smoke caused, frequency and duration. Where an investigating officer is not of the opinion that nuisance is being caused the site will be monitored.   

Dust

Dust is a common source of disturbance during both demolition and construction phases of development. It may result from a specific activity or process, or generally from the movements of vehicles on site. It is a greater problem during periods of dry, windy weather where site managers may have genuine difficulties in controlling dust to reasonable levels. Like the control of smoke from bonfires formal action is possible by the Council by the service of an abatement notice where excessive dust is generated. 

Controlling dust is sometimes difficult and the problems facing the contractor are recognised, however they are required to take all reasonable steps to minimise it and we can issue specific guidance if necessary. 

As with smoke, it may be the view of the investigating officer that the amount of dust arising from the site is not unreasonable and nuisance is not being caused. In such cases the site will be monitored to ensure continuing adherence to best practice to keep dust to the minimum. 

Other issues

We have no control over issues involving vehicle movements to and from a site. 

We provide a number of services that may be useful, including issues of mud and spillage on roads, obstructions to the road or pavement, planning control or the protection of trees.