Planning laws amended to allow sites to work for longer

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has announced changes to the planning system to help support 'safe' construction.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has announced changes to the planning system to help support 'safe' construction.

These include allowing developers to agree more flexible construction site working hours with their local council. The aim of this is to make it easier to follow public health guidance onsite and stagger builders’ arrival times, making public transport less busy and so reducing the risk of infection.

The government said that developers should expect their local planning authority to grant temporary changes to construction working hours until 9pm or later, six days a week, wherever possible and where construction working hours are controlled by planning condition.

This applies to England only and any temporary changes to construction working hours conditions granted by local planning authorities should not extend beyond 13th May 2021.

Lord Greenhalgh, minister of state for building safety, said: "Where developers require longer term or more significant changes to working hours, they should apply to the local planning authority to temporarily amend a condition or a construction management plan in the usual way. In doing so, it will be important for applicants to consider potential impacts and, where necessary, to put forward brief plans to manage concerns, drawing on existing good practice. In return, local planning authorities should respond speedily and sympathetically and engage positively with applicants to find solutions. Local authorities should prioritise these types of applications and give early clarity on the acceptability of extended hours to developers. They should ensure that decisions are issued quickly – with the aim of doing so within 10 working days."

A new charter has also been launched by the government and the Home Builders Federation, helping construction sites reopen in line with latest health and safety guidance.

The Safe Working Charter compliments the Covid-19 Site Operating Procedures published by the Construction Leadership Council.

"Our step-by-step plan is based on the latest guidance to ensure the safety and protection of everyone involved," housing secretary Robert Jenrick said.

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation, said: “Over the past week or so many house builders have commenced a gradual return to work, in a structured way that ensures the safety of its workforce and the general public. 

“The industry sustains hundreds of thousands of people in numerous roles and associated sectors, boosting local economies across the country. A resumption of work will play a major part in helping the economy recover as well as delivering the homes the country needs. 

“It should also provide the supply chain with the confidence it needs to accelerate its own restart. The charter is the public facing evidence which supports the very detailed protocols individual builders now have in place to ensure safe working on sites.”

John Newcomb, chief executive of the Builders Merchants Federation, added: “Safety has the highest priority as the industry returns to work. Over the past three weeks, since the publication of new branch operating guidelines, we have seen increasing numbers of merchants safely re-opening or expanding operations to support their trade customers. 

“House-builders’ structured return to site provides even more confidence within the supply chain, and provides further evidence of the construction industry’s determination to assist in the recovery of the UK economy.”

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