Environmental monitoring is often a legal obligation, for example in an overarching legislation such as The Control of Pollution Act 1974. This act requires us to manage noise effectively on construction projects and usually dictates the use of best practical means which is often controlled through a Section 61 (S61) consent.
Environmental monitoring ensures compliance with such legislation and the regulations and permits which may sit under this.
Under planning legislation, conditions are often written into a decision notice for the approval of a construction activity, such as the development of a block of flats. Certain conditions may require discharge prior to the commencement of a project.
In order to discharge some conditions, the Local Planning Authority (LPA) may be required to approve certain management plans, such as a Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP), for the activity.
A CEMP will outline environmental monitoring requirements and specify mitigation against nuisance such as dust and noise as well as potential pollution incidents.
Should any of the legislation, regulation and conditions be breached enforcement action may be taken by a range of regulatory authorities.
The Environment Agency published a series of Pollution Prevention Guidelines (PPG) which outline how to avoid pollution incidents. However, if a pollution incident occurs the Environment Agency may fine an individual or company. The fines reflect the seriousness of the offence and the financial circumstances of the offender and can range from hundreds to several million pounds in extreme cases.
Not all enforcement leads to direct financial penalties. A road project in central London several years ago was found to be continually in breach of the S61 consent (which relates to controls on noise and vibration) despite warning letters from the local authority. As a result a Section 60 notice was placed on the project that reduced the working hours from 8 hours to 45 minutes per day for the piling activity responsible for the noise breaches. This significantly impacted the programme and subsequently the project costs leading to an indirect financial penalty for the developer.
It is important to note that ignorance is NEVER a defence, all parties in a chain can be prosecuted.
Aside from avoiding enforcement action, environmental monitoring may be required under certain contractual agreements with a client such as stakeholder agreements or client minimum environmental standards in line with an accreditation. For example, ISO14001 requires evidence of continual improvement for which environmental monitoring can provides the dataset and evidence.
Environmental monitoring allows us to predict, through the collection of data, where issues may arise and then allows us to put in place mitigation measures to protect the community before the issues get out of hand.
Without environmental monitoring, the activity may continue to take place for several days, weeks or even months allowing complaints to build up and potential long term health issues to develop as a worst-case scenario. When the correct systems are in place, a real time alert is triggered as soon as the activity breaches a certain level and the activity can instantly be shut down whilst a mitigation measure, for example moving the activity indoors, is established. Due to early warning the result is hopefully no complaints and no harm to local receptors.
Real time alerts mean response to incidents is quicker and, by monitoring, improved understanding of which activities are higher risk. This in turn informs current and future construction methodologies.
Environmental monitoring and demonstrating good environmental stewardship, can boost future opportunities and tender bids. Monitoring data is crucial in providing evidence for a contractor applying for environmental awards as examples of going above and beyond the norm.
For example, the Green Apple International awards aim to encourage the efficient use of resources, enhance the competitiveness of organisations, and support the wider goals of sustainable development.
Most importantly, environmental monitoring allows construction sites to help maintain good relationships with their neighbours, benefiting contractors in their ultimate aim of being awarded future works.
Our Environmental Management and Consents service helps clients to manage their environmental and consenting requirements throughout the construction process. This ensures a smooth transition between planning, construction, and into the operational phase.
We can also help you to develop management plans, to meet planning requirements and project obligations, as well as delivering ISO14001 compliance if this is required. Our specialist consultants have expertise in all aspects of Environmental Management Systems (EMS) and can support you in meeting the ISO14001:2015 standard requirements.
Our team can help you obtain consents, licences and permits by engaging with Consent Granting Bodies at all stages of the project to ensure consents are sought promptly and help you comply with any associated conditions.