In recent weeks, many residents across the City of Westminster have written to their elected representatives – Councillors and MPs – to raise concerns about often non-urgent noisy construction works continuing during lock-down.
The extreme noise nuisance caused by works like demolition and installing cables is in some cases having an enormous impact on people’s ability to work from home and on their mental health.
Labour is calling on the Government to give local authorities the power to restrict or prevent works in certain circumstances – namely when they are non-urgent and are in areas where this is impacting residents. At the present time, councils are sometimes limited in the extent to which they can restrict or prevent works.
This is the second time Labour has raised concerns about construction work and its impact on communities. In the immediate aftermath after lock-down was brought forward and construction work given the green light to continue despite other parts of the economy closing down, Karen Buck MP wrote to Government Ministers to raise her concerns.
As a result of Government inaction, Councillor Pancho Lewis who represents West End Ward – and has been inundated with correspondence raising this issue – has teamed up with Karen Buck and Adam Hug (Leader of the Labour Group) to reiterate calls to the Government to listen to the needs of residents and take action.
A copy of the letter sent to the Secretary of State for Business is below. Labour will continue to lobby the Government and the Council on behalf of residents and the community.
Alok Sharma MP
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
1 Victoria Street
London SW1H 0ET
We write to express our concerns about the ongoing, and at times extreme, noise nuisance affecting residents as a result of noisy and often non-urgent works during this period of lock-down.
We represent communities who are doing the right thing by following government guidance to stay at home. This is a significant sacrifice that involves giving up on all sorts of liberties, including visiting friends and family who many are desperate to see in this moment of crisis.
Unfortunately, far too many of the communities we represent find that on the street they live on – or a neighbouring street close by – very noisy work for often non-urgent cases that could be postponed are still being allowed to go ahead, for example non-essential construction work, installing cables, and similar activities.
This is not simply a matter of convenience. First, many are trying to run businesses from home and others are working from home. Constant noise hampers people’s ability to work – this impacts productivity and in turn has a negative effect on the economy. In addition, and this point by no means be underestimated, being exposed to unrelenting noisy works can have a severe impact on people’s mental health.
Imagine finding oneself at home, attempting to work remotely whilst looking after two young children or an elderly dependent, and only leaving one’s home once a day for exercise. For most people this alone would be enough of a challenge. Add to this the stress induced if noisy drilling is happening only a few yards from your front entrance for works that could be postponed: this is beyond the realms of what we can consider acceptable and reasonable to ask of people. And yet this is precisely what many are experiencing.
However, we recognise that some works will be essential. On that basis, we ask that as a temporary measure during lock-down councils are given the power to restrict or prevent works. This would enable councils to make locally determined decisions on a case-by-case basis, better balancing the needs of some works to continue with protecting residential amenity.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Cllr Pancho Lewis, Shadow Cabinet Member for Environment, West End Ward, Westminster Council
Karen Buck MP, MP for Westminster North
Cllr Adam Hug, Leader of the Labour group of Councillors, Westbourne Ward, Westminster Council