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This was published 10 months ago
Residents forced to study and work from home because of the COVID-19 lockdown face intrusive noise from suburban construction sites as the industry returns to work following its two-week suspension.
Brian Seidler, executive director of the Master Builders Association of NSW, said builders tried to keep the volume down but “unfortunately there is inherent noise when you’re building”.
Kate Morgan and her family have endured disruptive noise from a construction site near their home in Tamarama.Credit:Rhett Wyman
Construction at unoccupied sites has restarted outside of the eight worst-affected council areas after a two-week stoppage, although more than 70,000 workers and tradespeople in COVID-19 hotspots in western and south-western Sydney cannot attend work.
Tamarama resident Kate Morgan and her family have endured the sound of demolition and the excavation of sandstone since June 2020.
“To be woken at 7am every morning to the sound of an excavator repetitively hammering into sandstone with your whole house shaking so that you feel like something is rattling inside your head is excruciating,” she said.
Ms Morgan said the ongoing noise had made it almost impossible to concentrate and focus on work and disrupted family life.
“There is a limit to how much of the day one can spend wearing noise cancelling headphones and using a modified sign language to communicate with the rest of the family,” she said.
An order signed in July by Planning Minister Rob Stokes allows construction work to occur seven days a week although workers must take “all feasible and reasonable measures” to minimise noise.
Some work on construction sites can occur seven days a week although workers must take “all feasible and reasonable measures” to minimise noise.Credit:Rhett Wyman
A Planning Department spokeswoman said the construction order limited the work that could be undertaken on weekends or public holidays, and “noisy construction like rock breaking or pile driving is not permitted on weekends”.
A Waverley Council spokeswoman said construction site operators still had to comply with noise regulations set by the Environmental Protection Authority.
“Council did object to the extension of construction work days by state government that enables work to continue seven days per week,” she said. “Construction hours and days should always be considered in a local context and the impact they have on neighbouring residents.”
Michael Lawrence has been living next to a building site in Double Bay for two years where workers have been using jackhammers to excavate.
“The jackhammering and concrete sawing which lasted most of a week made our house uninhabitable, even with all windows closed,” he said. “Some days we left in the morning and only returned in the afternoon.”
Mr Lawrence said the site supervisor was a “nice guy who does what he can to help but obviously his job is to get the construction moving as fast as possible”.
He said the order extending permissible hours of construction should be reversed because “it preferences the economy and development over the amenity and mental welfare of the general public”.
Mr Seidler of the NSW MBA acknowledged there had been an increase in complaints about construction noise during last year’s lockdown.
“I absolutely get the fact there are many people working from home and the impact of noise is disruptive,” he said. “Builders are mindful of these issues and certainly development application conditions talk about minimising [noise] where you can. But unfortunately there is inherent noise when you’re building.”
Mr Seidler said residential construction had been fuelled by government stimulus as well as border restrictions that mean people are spending money on their homes instead of overseas travel.
Woollahra mayor Susan Wynne said there was little action the council could take because most construction noise, including use of power tools, was permitted during the current COVID-19 lockdown.
“We advise residents experiencing problems regarding construction noise to make contact with the builder concerned, or the neighbour using noisy equipment, to see if a compromise is possible until the current lockdown is lifted,” she said.
Ms Morgan said work involving significant noise should only be permitted for short periods while people worked from home during the pandemic. “This would allow people to organise their work/study commitments around those time periods and leave the house for shopping or exercise when the excavation is programmed,” she said.
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