A written ministerial statement, from housing secretary Robert Jenrick, instructs councils to take a positive approach to such requests, for instance by not enforcing, or amending, planning conditions that restrict working hours.
Where only a short term or modest increase to working hours is required, the statement says, local planning authorities should not seek to undertake enforcement action.
Where developers require longer term or more significant changes to working hours, the statement says, they should apply to the LPA to temporarily amend a condition or a construction management plan in the usual way.
In doing so, the statement says, it will be important for applicants to, where necessary, put forward brief plans to manage concerns. Local authorities should prioritise these types of applications and give early clarity on the acceptability of extended hours to developers, the statement continues. They should aim to issue decisions within ten working days, it says.
According to the statement, requests to extend working hours should be proportionate and should not involve working on Sundays or bank holidays. But it says LPAs should not refuse requests to extend working hours until 9pm, Monday to Saturday without very compelling reasons. In some cases, it continues, such as in areas without residential properties, extending working hours beyond this, including allowing 24 hour working where appropriate, may be justified.
The statement says “compelling” reasons for refusal might include significant impact on neighbouring businesses, or on uses which are particularly sensitive to noise, dust or vibration, which cannot be overcome through other mitigation, or where impacts on densely populated areas would be unreasonable.
It adds that any temporary changes to construction working hours conditions granted by LPAs should not extend beyond 13 May 2021, and that the need for the statement will be reviewed when the requirement for social distancing on construction sites diminishes.
Property industry representatives welcomed the move. Ian Fletcher, director of real estate policy at the British Property Federation, said: "Agreeing changes to working hours during extended daylight will help the sector cope better with increasing productivity and keeping employees safe, and this will protect more jobs. We hope the public will be understanding of the need to do this and that those managing construction sites will work with local councils to make responsible use of this flexibility."
But Local Government Association housing spokesman cllr David Renard cautioned: “Flexibility on construction site working hours needs to be negotiated on a site by site basis with councils so that they can consider the impact on local residents, many of whom will be at home all day, including for work purposes, due to current coronavirus measures."