Coronavirus - Construction Industry Working Hours

The Government announced through their Ministerial Statement on the 13th May, that “Our Plan to Rebuild: the UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy” published by the Government on Monday 11 May, makes clear that construction work can be undertaken across England providing sites are able to operate safely in line with the new COVID-19 Secure guidelines.
A number of developers have already announced plans to restart work on sites. The purpose of this statement is to make clear that, with immediate effect, local planning authorities should take a swift and positive approach to requests from developers and site operators for greater flexibility around construction site working hours. This is to ensure that, where appropriate, planning conditions are not a barrier to allowing developers the flexibility necessary to facilitate the safe operation of construction sites during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to proceed at pace with work otherwise delayed as a result of COVID-19. Developers should expect their local planning authority to grant temporary changes to construction working hours until 9pm or later, 6 days a week, wherever possible and where construction working hours are controlled by planning condition. This flexibility is in relation to controls imposed by the planning system only.
The current standard hours of working imposed by East Cambridgeshire District Council imposed as a condition on development sites are: Monday to Friday 7.30am to 6pm, Saturday 7.30am to 1pm, and not on Sundays, Public Holidays or Bank Holidays.
The Government has produced a document with questions and answers relating to this proposal.
Local planning authorities are encouraged to support the requests for extended working hours. Where this is short term & only a modest increase in the working hours, this will be submitted via an informal agreement. The developers must put this in writing to including: 
  • the reference number of the application;
  • the number of the condition the request relates to;
  • how they are proposing to operate and the type of activity beyond the existing authorised hours;
  • details of any mitigation measures that will be put in place;
  • communication arrangements that will be put in place to ensure that there is an open dialogue between the developer/site manager and local residents and businesses. 
For example, a short-term period to get the construction sites back moving, would be from now until the end of September. There shall be no heavy machinery, ground working or HGV construction activity occurring before 7:30am and after 6:00pm. This will also include no vehicles parking up before these extended times. Beyond these times e.g. 7:00am and up to 9pm it should only be non-noisy activity i.e. tradepersons working on the dwellings e.g. bricklayers; plasterers, electricians, painters/decorators etc. The request will then be considered in consultation with Environmental Health Officers and Ward Councillors. 
In allowing greater flexibility, the Government recognises the need to mitigate the impact that any temporary relaxation of working hours could have on local residents and businesses. Requests to extend working hours should be proportionate and should not involve working on Sundays, public or bank holidays.
On receipt of the written request the Council will endeavour to provide a written response to the developer within 10 working days. 
Where a request is approved, the letter from the Council will advise the following:- 
  1. The informal agreement end date (which shall not extend beyond September 2020)
  2. That if the council receives complaints about extended working hours and the issues raised cannot be resolved quickly to the satisfaction of the LPA, the informal agreement may be ended 
  3. If the Council intends to end any informal agreement, the Council will endeavor to give the developer at least 48 hours’ notice. Where informal agreement is withdrawn, enforcement action may be taken against any future breaches of the condition(s). 
  4. The developer will be expected to communicate directly with local residents and/or businesses that might be affected by extended working hours to establish open lines of communication so that if any problems do arise, the developer can respond and resolve the issues quickly. 

Where a request for a relaxation to a working hours condition is declined, the LPA will explain the reason(s) for this.

If developers wish to have a longer period beyond the end of September, and longer working hours, then it is proposed the developers must formally apply via a Section 73 (Variation of Condition application) i.e the ministerial statement says these extended hours should not extend beyond 13 May 2021.