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Cambridge City Council

Construction sites

Construction sites can be a major source of pollution such as noise, pollution, dust and smoke. They can have an adverse impact on health and the local environment if not managed and controlled properly.

We work with residents and developers to try to ensure this impact is minimised and controlled wherever possible.

It is important that construction personnel follow best practice to control pollution, comply with environmental legislation and prevent problems.

Best practice

Compliance with BS 5228: Noise Control on Construction and Open Sites is expected as a minimum standard. Wherever alternative working methods exist, minimising noise and vibration must be a prime consideration when choosing techniques and equipment.

Contractors are responsible for ensuring that all machinery and equipment is well maintained. This includes hired machinery and equipment. It must be properly silenced and used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, as required by BS 5228.

Contractors and clients are advised to familiarise themselves with the terms and conditions of this guidance and to liaise as necessary with us.

Hours of work for demolition and construction

We often receive complaints about disturbance caused by demolition and construction work in residential areas during unreasonable hours.

Some noise and disturbance are inevitable from such activities, but environmental legislation does not stipulate any hours when construction work or similar activities can or cannot be undertaken.

Generally, where residents are likely to be affected, we recommend that demolition and construction work is only carried out during the following reasonable hours:

  • Monday to Friday: 7am to 7pm (typical daytime hours)
  • Saturdays: 7am to 1pm

We also recommend that noisy works are not carried out on Sundays or bank holidays.

In exceptional or special circumstances, such as emergencies like a burst water pipe or collapsed sewer, or when works are required on a main road, these hours are unlikely to apply.

We discourage proposals for evening or night-time work. If work needs to be undertaken outside the reasonable hours above, we advise that noise should not be audible outside or beyond the boundary of the property, to prevent undue disturbance to neighbours.

Planning conditions

Planning permission for specific developments might include conditions restricting working hours for certain activities. These might include demolition or construction work, or deliveries and collections. These can be found on the local planning authority’s decision notice if they are deemed to be appropriate.

Generally, breaches of planning conditions are referred to and investigated by the Council’s Planning Enforcement Team, sometimes in liaison with Environmental Health.

Statutory nuisance

Construction noise can be considered a potential statutory nuisance in certain circumstances.

Statutory nuisance is more than a mere annoyance – it must cause an unlawful and unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of land or be prejudicial to health.

The law does not define a specific level of noise as a statutory nuisance. A range of factors like hours of work and what is being does to minimise the noise will be important considerations.

Report a noise issue

If you are often disturbed by demolition or construction work outside the reasonable hours of work listed above, you can report it as a noise issue to us.


Dust from construction sites is controlled by the Environmental Protection Act (EPA). It can often be minimised by:

  • carefully siting transport routes
  • providing hard-surfaced roadways
  • imposing speed limits on site
  • damping stockpiles of materials and roadways with water
  • keeping roadways clear
  • adjusting working methods, for example to minimise demolition or crushing dust
  • storing fine material under cover

The environmental legislation controlling dust is for the protection of human health and the environment in general. If dust only affects your property or possessions, we will not be able to help.

Considerate contractor scheme

Planning consultations guidance

Factors to be considered in controlling pollution from construction sites include:

  • on-site management
  • handling public relations
  • setting working hours and days
  • controlling site traffic and setting up access routes
  • monitoring of particles and vapour discharges
  • noise and vibration monitoring, particularly where piling is being undertaken
  • good housekeeping
  • proximity to air quality management areas [PDF, 3.5MB]

Contact us for advice on which of these factors might be relevant to your proposed application.

A planning condition requiring the production of a method statement, which includes monitoring and control of emissions, might be recommended. We advise you contact us at an early stage to agree any requirements.

Any noise and vibration impact assessment report should include:

If piling is to be undertaken, full details of the proposed method to be used are required. This should be included in the noise and vibration reports detailed above.

Vibration levels within nearby properties are not to exceed 0.3mm s-1 in accordance with BS 5228-2, Noise Control on Construction and Open Sites. Predicted vibration levels at nearby properties are required. Complaints of vibration will require vibration monitoring at the complainant’s property in order to investigate, and mitigation must be implemented if required.

Monitoring and recording protocols

Guidance on noise monitoring is given in section 8.4 and annex G of BS 5228-1: Noise Control on Construction and Open Sites.

Full details of monitoring are required. Continuous noise and vibration monitoring might not be necessary, but agreement should be reached on when it will be undertaken. For example, spot noise checks could be undertaken on a regular basis at site boundary locations closest to sensitive receptors.

Longer-term continuous monitoring of noise and vibration may be required:

  • when agreed target levels are likely to be exceeded
  • upon the receipt of substantiated complaints
  • at the request of the local planning authority following any justified complaints

Ideally, contact details for monitoring personnel and the site manager, including for out-of-hours emergencies, should be provided.

Consideration should be given to further measures, including communication and implementation of a complaints procedure. For example, give notice to building occupiers when noisy operations such as piling are planned.

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