Complaining about construction sites
Construction sites are often located in close proximity to existing residential or commercial properties, which can be negatively impacted by the works.
Such issues can include:
- Noise outside reasonable working hours.
- Dirt and dust.
- Parking obstruction.
- Safety or environmental issues.
- Inconsiderate or anti-social behaviour on the part of the workforce.
- Condition of the surrounding roads.
- Environmental concerns.
- Obstruction of pedestrians.
- Damage to neighbouring property.
- Inappropriate site lighting.
- Inappropriate working hours.
However, construction is a necessary activity and in the case of Andreae v. Selfridge & Co. Limited (1958) Sir Wilfred Green MR suggested that ‘...in respect of operations of this character, such as demolition and building, if they are reasonably carried on and all proper and reasonable steps are taken to ensure that no undue inconvenience is caused to neighbours, whether from noise, dust, or other reasons, the neighbours must put up with it.’
Generally, the inconvenience of a construction site will be tolerated because it is temporary, however, issues arising from the work can sometimes be a cause for complaint.
Generally, the conditions under which construction sites are allowed to operate is determined by the local authority, in accordance with the Control of Pollution Act, and conditions can be applied to planning permissions in accordance with the Town and Country Planning Act. This might include, for example, the hours that a construction site is allowed to operate, or is allowed to undertake noisy activities.
In addition, there may be a requirement to comply with BS 5228 Code of Practice for Noise and Vibration Control on Construction and Open Sites, and the Control of Noise at Work Regulations limit the exposure of workers to noise (this is enforced by the Health and Safety Executive).
 Making complaints
 The contractor
In the first instance, it can be beneficial to complain to the contractor themselves, as they may be unaware of the problems they are creating. Some contractors, in particular on large projects, will have a dedicated helpline that neighbours can call. Alternatively, it may be possible to contact the landowner or client for the works.
In general, noise nuisance is treated as an environmental health issue, dealt with by the local council. Complaints can be made in confidence to the environmental health department of a local authority. The complainant may be required to provide a statement and attend court to give evidence should there be legal action.
Councils can serve a Section 60 Prohibition Notice under the Control of Pollution Act 1974, specifying limits on noise levels, the plant or machinery that is allowable, working hours, and the steps to remedy problems. If the site fails to comply with this notice then they can be liable for prosecution and fined an unlimited amount, accumulating with each day of failure to comply.
 The police
If noise amounts to a breach of the peace, or there is threatening and/or anti-social behaviour, then a complaint can be made to the police.
Sites or companies that are registered with the Considerate Constructors Scheme will display their contact details on posters, hoardings, banners, and so on. Complaints about a registered site can be made to the Scheme. If the complaint is relevant to the Scheme’s Code of Considerate Practice, then the company will be informed about the complaint and advice offered about resolving it.
The Scheme will monitor the complaint until they are satisfied that the Code is being followed by the site. If the site or company do not deal with the complaint satisfactorily, then it will be passed to the Scheme’s Chief Executive who will escalate the matter to the company’s head office and director level if necessary.
The Scheme can attempt to mediate between the parties until a resolution has been reached. In the event that the site or company still fails to adequately deal with the problem, then they will be removed from the Scheme.
 Avoiding complaints
Reasonable precautions that might be taken by contractors to reduce or avoid complaints might include:
- Keeping neighbours informed.
- Providing a help line so that problems can be reported.
- Only working at reasonable times and restricting noisy activities to particular periods.
- Storing fine materials under cover.
- Damping fine materials and roadways.
- Minimising demolition or crushing dust.
- Washing down vehicles.
- Taking care when deciding transport routes.
- Providing hard-surfaced roadways.
- Proper waste management and avoiding burning waste materials.
- Limiting vibration.
- Use well-maintained, quiet machinery.
- Careful sub-contractor management.
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