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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Goodhand

Construction Noise - Section 61

Contents



Who is this guide for?


This guide is for anyone who wants to learn more about Section 61s, whether you have to produce one yourself or have been given one to work within. It should go without saying that it is general advice and there may be specific things relating to your project that this guide does not cover, or you might need specialist advice.


What is a Section 61?


The legal definition of a section 61 is contained in the Control of Pollution Act 1974 (CoPA). It is an application to the local authority for prior consent to carry our construction works. Essentially it is a formal agreement between a works contractor (or anyone undertaking construction work) and the local authority. The purpose is to agree on methods of work to minimise noise and vibration impacts on people living nearby.


This applies to the following types of work:

  • construction

  • alteration

  • repair/maintenance

  • breaking

  • boring

  • excavation

  • demolition

  • or any work of engineering construction

This might apply to buildings, roads, rail or any type of structure.


Do I need a Section 61?


Not necessarily, however, it could be required by the client or even required by legislation for very large projects.

Whether it is mandatary or not, there are advantages to having a Section 61 consent in place. It is a formal agreement between the person undertaking the works and the local authority that provides some protection.


Without a Section 61 consent, the local authority has the power to serve a Section 60 notice. There are broad powers for the local authority to specify the following things:

  • what plant/machinery can or can't be used

  • what hours you can work and

  • the noise level limits

In most cases it would be better that those things are reached by agreement. It is easy to imagine how such a notice might require a redesign or a rethink of the construction methodology and the delays and costs that this might incur. With larger projects with complicated phases of work that rely on several works' packages carried out in a particular sequence then the risks are just going to grow, which is why Section 61s are often required by the client.


Further, if works are being undertaken under Section 61 consent then it is a defence to nuisance proceeding that the local authority might take under Section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Prosecutions under the Environmental Protection Act also present a large risk to projects.


For the same reasons, local authorities are often quite relaxed about whether they receive a Section 61 application. Local authorities certainly want to know about works in their area, but they have powers to serve notices in the absence of a formalised agreement. It takes time and expertise to evaluate a Section 61 and there are risks to consenting works. From the local authorities' perspective, it is potentially easier and less risky not to enter into an agreement and then take action if problems arise.


When do I make the application?


Gantt chart

Legally, the local authority must consent an application within 28 days of it being submitted. If they refuse to consent an application (or fail to respond altogether) you may appeal to the magistrate's court. In fact, if they condition or limit the consent in any way this is also appealable. However, in our experience, most issues are resolved through negotiations. An estimate of 28 days is reasonable.


Sometimes the client will have the contractual right to review and comment on the Section 61 application and those timescales are typically 2 weeks. You should have a Section 61 ready to submit to the client 6 weeks prior to starting works.


If you are panicking right now because you have 2 weeks until you start work and you have just found out you need to make a Section 61 application, you are not alone. Pragmatism has a role to play and with some goodwill shorter timescales can be agreed. It may also be possible to begin some low impact work without consent. See below.


Who makes the application?

It is normally the principal contractor who makes the application. Occasionally this responsibility is delegated but ultimately the person making the application must be the person responsible for carrying out the works in the application.


Does all the construction work need to be included?

Again, it depends on the circumstances. If there is no requirement from the client (or legislation for the project) for you to make a Section 61 application, then you might just seek consent for works at higher risk of causing disturbance. This would certainly include any work you plan to do outside normal working hours -

  • 8 am to 6 pm, Monday to Friday

  • 8 am to 1 pm, Saturday

You might also think about just covering the noisy works - such as breaking or demolition.


If you are required to carry out all works under a Section 61, there is still normally an exception for low impact works or site setup. For instance, survey work can usually be undertaken without consent. Site setup, which might include setting up accommodation/welfare and the initial hording can usually be done by notifying the local authority by email or using a short form. Also, trial holes carried out in advance of the main works can usually be carried out in a similar way. You would need to check the works information requirements because what can be done outside a Section 61 will vary from project to project.


What information needs to be included?

First, have a look on the local authority's website as they may have a form for you to use. If you are working on HS2, Thames Tideway, Hinkley Point, Stonehenge Tunnel or another major project, there is likely a standard template you must use.


You will need to include your name and organisation, the name of the local authority you applying to and what site the Section 61 will apply to. The legislations states that the following should also be included:

  • the works, and the method by which they are to be carried out; and

  • the steps proposed to be taken to minimise noise resulting from the works.

Over time, a (nearly) standardised form has emerged. Whilst this will vary from project to project, the information that gets included is more or less the same.


  • Address / location of proposed works

  • Name, address and telephone number of the main point of contact

  • The works to be carried out

  • Methodology

  • Hours of work

  • Plant list

  • Proposed steps to minimise noise

  • Programme of works

  • Predicted noise levels

  • Details of properties qualifying for noise insulation or temporary rehousing

Most of the time the relevant information does not fit in the form itself and so there are usually several appendices which might include the following:


  • Method statements

  • Noise and vibration control measures

  • Plant list

  • Programme of works

  • Site plans

  • Baseline noise levels

  • Noise predictions

  • Monitoring regime

  • Informative on Noise Insulation Criteria / Temporary Rehousing relevant to the project

It doesn't mean that every Section 61 for every project has to include all of the above. For a small project it may just be the work description, programme, methodology, proposals to minimise noise, a list of plant and site plans. Normally for works that are close to noise sensitive buildings and are likely to go on for months then noise and vibration calculations and monitoring would be expected.


Here are some example Section 61 forms.


BS 5228

BS 5228 is the Code of practice for noise and vibration control on construction and open sites. The standard is in two parts. Part one deals with noise and part two deals with vibration. The document is often referred to when drafting Section 61s and contains a lot of useful guidance.


Watch this space for a future blog on it.


Step by step process

How might you expect Goodhand Acoustics to assist you?


1. Determine what needs to be included

Different organisations need different levels of support. Let's assume you need help drafting the whole document. There is still information you need to gather because after all you will be entering into a legal agreement and so it's important that the information that goes into the document is accurate. Typically, the first thing to consider is the works information and any correspondence you have had to make sure the document addresses any specific requirements.


2. Consult the local authority

The next step is to consult an environmental health officer at the local authority. For smaller projects this might be a phone call. For larger and more complex projects with a higher risk of impacts, a meeting would be advisable so that you can go through the works in more detail. If the environmental health officer has a good understanding of what you are doing before receiving a Section 61 application, they can give their own expectations that you can address in the application as well as speeding up the consent process. Having early engagement can be invaluable to make it a smooth process.


3. Carry out baseline sound level survey

Sometimes baseline noise levels are needed. They may already be publicly available, or you may need to have a baseline sound level survey undertaken (usually at least 24 hours but more typically one week). The baseline sound level survey is to determine sound levels already existing at the nearest noise sensitive properties.


4. Gather together information for the Section 61

In most cases you would need to compile the information showing what you are going to do, when and where. This would include method statements, plans and a plant list.


If you have noise levels for plant, then this would be useful but it's also possible to use typical noise levels from our own database or other available data (such as BS 5228 data). For sites that cover a large area, it might be necessary to take into account topographical information. If you don't have this, we would typically purchase OS data. To do the noise modelling, we would typically send you a spreadsheet for you to list the following


  • all the plant/machinery/vehicle movements

  • what they would be doing,

  • when they will be used

  • what percentage of the day they will be used and

  • when in the programme they would be used.

5. Carry out noise and vibration modelling

Depending on the complexity of the site and the phases we would build a 3D model in noise prediction software. We would undertake predictions and the nearest noise sensitive properties for different time periods and for the different phases of the works. This would then be reported in the Section 61.


6. Consider additional mitigation

At this stage, we would have a good understanding of what phases of work and what activities are likely to cause the greatest impact. We would then discuss with you mitigation strategies to minimise those aspects and if necessary, rerun the model to include that in the predictions.


7. Finalise the Section 61

We would then compile all the information into a Section 61 application and at this point we would clarify any ambiguities and send the document to you to either the client for review or directly to the local authority.


What if I can't stick to the Section 61 agreement?

The CoPA does not define ways of varying Section 61 agreements. However, works often change for a variety of reasons. Perhaps there are delays or perhaps there are obstructions that weren't foreseen and it's no longer possible to complete the works the same way as detailed in a Section 61 agreement. It would be possible to submit a fresh Section 61, but often it's possible to agree an amendment with the local authority. For larger projects this is often formalised in standardised forms where the process has already been agreed with the local authority. Occasionally, local authorities detail their own process of how to apply for a variation. These definitions are commonly used:


Derogation or Statement of Intent

This is to inform the local authority that you will be undertaking some works without seeking explicit consent. Typically, this would be for works that are limited in scope and very low impact. This may be for investigation works or works to setup the site compound and the initial site hoarding. Where there is a higher risk of impacts, then it would better to make a Section 61 application.


Dispensations and variations

These are used to vary the construction information. Typically, variations are for changes that are minor and are not expected to significantly change impacts. Sometimes variations are used to extend the programme. Dispensations are for larger changes such as a new element of work or changes in methodology and plant that are likely to change the nature of impacts.


Overruns

Sometimes work is time critical. Perhaps you are using concrete and there has been complications and it is not possible to stop the works. You may have no choice but to continue working into the evening even though this is not consented and there is not time to vary the consent. By notifying the local authority of an overrun and giving them the justifications, it would reduce the risk that they would take action against you.


Noise Predictions

If you need to carry out noise predictions, then in most cases it would be sensible to contact an acoustic consultant. Noise is not straight forward and identifying noise levels for each piece of plant is more involved than you might think. Some of the issues are discussed in this article. However, if you want to give it a go yourself, then there is an online tool you can use: Acoustics.io


Acoustics.io was developed by Goodhand Acoustics in collaboration with Cruncher.ch. It's a simple construction noise calculator that implements a simple version on the noise predictions methods contained in Annex F of BS 5228-1:2009. It has some limitations - for instance it does not implement the 'mobile plant' predictions and also uses the working approximation for barrier attenuation rather than the path difference methodology. But having said that a lot of Section 61s do not do any more than is contained in the tool.


The below video demonstrates how to build a simple noise prediction using 4 pieces of plant.



Do I need a noise and vibration consultant?

Any Section 61 that doesn't require noise predictions or monitoring can usually be done by the contractor.


If some noise predictions are required, then anything simple could be done by spreadsheet or with the help of Acoustics.io.. However, you should be wary over noise data as this is not always correct and can easily be misinterpreted. You should also make sure you understand how the predictions work and when it's appropriate to use the various procedures and adjustments detailed in BS 5228-1. Sometimes you will be required to use an expert. If vibration is a risk, then you would almost always need the assistance of an expert as this is even more specialised. In most other cases it's advisable to have an expert. For the occasions where the works come under scrutiny that you will be thankful for having reliable predictions and the advice of an expert to help you mitigate against the risks.


Resources


Example Section 61 forms

Google "Section 61 form" to find more examples


Noise and Vibration Predictions


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