The Control of Pollution Act (CoPA) 1974, Chapter 40 gives Local Authorities (LAs) powers for controlling noise and vibration from construction sites and other similar works. These powers may be exercised either before works start or after they have started.
Section 60 of the CoPA enables a LA, in whose area work is going to be carried out, or is being carried out, to serve a notice of its requirements for the control of site noise on the person who appears to the LA to be carrying out the works and on such other persons appearing to the local authority to be responsible for, or to have control over, the carrying out of the works.
This notice can:
- Specify the plant or machinery that is or is not to be used.
- Specify the hours during which the construction work can be carried out.
- Specify the level of noise and vibration that can be emitted from the premises in question or at any specified point on these premises or that can be emitted during specified hours.
- Provide for any change of circumstances.
In serving such a notice, a LA must have regard to:
- The relevant provisions of any Code of Practice issued and/or approved under Part III of the CoPA.
- The need for ensuring that the best practicable means are employed to minimise noise.
- Before specifying any particular methods or plant or machinery, the desirability, in the interests of the recipient of the notice in question of specifying other methods or plant or machinery that will be substantially as effective in minimising noise and vibration and that will be more acceptable to them.
- The need to protect people in the locality of the site from the effects of noise and vibration.
A person served with such a notice can appeal to a Magistrates Court within 21 days from the date of the serving of the notice. Normally, the notice is not suspended pending an appeal unless it requires some expenditure on works and/or the noise or vibration in question arises or would arise in the course of the performance of a duty imposed by law on the appellant. The regulations governing appeals (The Control of Noise (Appeals) Regulations 1975) also give LAs discretion not to suspend a notice even when one or other of these conditions is met, if the noise is injurious to health, or is of such limited duration that a suspension would render the notice of no practical effect, or if the expenditure necessary on works is trivial compared to the public benefit expected.
Section 61 enables a contractor (or developer) to apply to the LA for a Consent and this document represents an Application under this section of the CoPA. Once a Consent has been granted, a LA cannot take action under Section 60 of the CoPA or Section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA), so long as the Consent remains in force and the contractor complies with its terms.
Compliance with a Consent does not, however, mean that nuisance action cannot be taken under Section 82 of the EPA or under common law. However, a Consent can be used as a defence in appeals against an abatement notice (Statutory Nuisance (Appeals) Regulations 1995).
If a LA is satisfied that the proposals for minimising noise and vibration which accompany an application are adequate, it will give its Consent within 28 days of the application being lodged. If the applicant considers that any conditions that are attached to the Consent are unnecessary or unreasonable, they can appeal to a Magistrates Court within 21 days from the end of that period.
When a Consent has been given and the construction work is to be carried out by a person other than the applicant for the Consent, it is essential that the applicant takes all reasonable steps to bring the terms of Consent to the notice of that other person. Failure to observe the terms of a Consent is an offence under the Act.