Environmental Monitoring: Guidance from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government

Environmental Monitoring: Guidance from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government

In a circular dated 15th May 2020 and addressed to the Directors of Planning, Chief Executives, Senior Planners, An Bord Pleanála, the Office of the Planning Regulator and Directors of Regional Assemblies, the Housing Department issued guidance on the working hours conditions attached to current planning permissions, in response to Covid-19.

Earlier this month, the Government published the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business to help the country through easing lockdown restrictions on a phased basis. These phases indicate the planned strategy to reopen businesses across Ireland, while maintaining a low virus transmission rate. In construction, this will be achieved through a range of measures including staggered working hours and adherence to social distancing guidelines on sites. When the phases were first announced, they were separated into five steps - three weeks apart - with the final phase coming into effect on August 10th. Last week we entered Phase 2, three weeks after the first phase came into effect (non-essential construction sites re-opened under Phase 1).

Section 34(4)(h) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 outlines the conditions for planning authorities "for determining the sequencing and timing in which, and the time at which, development works shall be carried out".

Guidelines for Planning Authorities - Enforcement of Certain Planning Conditions during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) Outbreak was published at the end of March by Mr Eoghan Murphy T.D., our current Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government. These guidelines call for the exercise of a certain level of discretion for planning conditions related to opening hours for part-time essential workers during this pandemic.

Planning authorities have been asked to approach the construction working hours conditions that are attached to certain planning permission applications on a similar basis. In these terms, it has been noted that "particular activities outside 'normal' operating hours (e.g. a continuous pour of concrete on a large site)" will be allowed under certain conditions. This can only happen if there is a staggering of shifts for different trades on the building site and that these activities can be completed while maintaining physical distancing regulations and safety protocols. The aim of this measure is to minimise further disruption and productivity losses for the sector.

Government understands that all sites are different and require various project tasks. This discretionary approach, which is to be regarded as an "exceptional time-limited arrangement" should be decided on a case by case basis by local planning authorities.

The factors that will be taken into account are:

  • The size and location of the construction site i.e. rural or urban, small or major development.
  • How close the construction site is to any occupied homes and premises or land uses that may be particularly sensitive to loud noises
  • Who is likely to be impacted, how long the work will take, how people may be impacted, dust that will accumulate
  • Cumulative impacts, is there more than one active construction site in the town already?
  • The proposed hours of construction outside regular business hours.
  • The management onsite, i.e. who will be there to oversee any difficulties, or will there be a health and safety manager onsite at all times alongside the site operatives?

It should be noted that any queries in relation to this latest guidance can be emailed to planning@housing.gov.ie.

Considerate construction has never been so important. Project owners and managers need to maintain excellent community relations during this time to ensure the continuation of this discretion. Contact the team at Sonitus Systems for up-to-date advice on environmental monitoring and for access to our Sonitus Cloud monitoring solution: https://www.sonitussystems.com/news/environmental-monitoring-for-compliant-construction-sites

Sonitus Systems supply robust and reliable sound level monitoring equipment globally from their base in Dublin. Their award-winning products and services allow users to easily monitor and assess noise levels in any scenario to ensure compliance. For more information, call the team Sonitus Systems on +353 1 6778443 or email info@sonitussystems.com

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