A single construction project can have a major impact on the environment in its immediate locality. Within a town or city, a number of concurrent projects can create congestion, increase risk to cyclists and pedestrians, increase noise and raise particulate emissions, a situation now evident within many towns and cities. This can cause hardship and blight for local residents, often for year after year. And with continuing low interest rates, and a government rightly intent on increasing investment in national infrastructure, this situation will only worsen.
This state of affairs exists because planners fail to take account of the individual and collective environmental impact of such projects during the construction phase. Remedying this situation calls for a coordinated programme that includes:
- Making environmental impact during construction a key criterion for planning approval;
- Creating a tool to assist the development of a plan that quantifies and optimises the environmental impact when initial planning applications are submitted;
- Putting in place enforcement/monitoring regimes to ensure adherence to this plan;
- Giving developers the incentive to reduce environmental impact;
- Engaging with contractors and providing training programmes such that they have the skills to implement such plans.
This represents a significant intervention and requires leaderships at many levels beginning with the Cabinet Office. Whether such leadership will be forthcoming remains to be seen. Residents effected by construction projects await with baited breath.