The government has renewed its policy on extended site working hours during the pandemic. The measure instructs local authorities in England to approve applications for site working up until 9pm, Monday to Saturday, unless there are “very compelling reasons” not to.

When introduced last May, the policy was designed to encourage contractors to reduce the size of teams on site, stagger working hours and support off-peak travel to sites. These changes are all explicitly encouraged by the coronavirus site operating procedures issued by the Construction Leadership Council.

The permission was due to lapse on 13 May this year, but housing secretary Robert Jenrick yesterday announced that the current arrangements will continue until 30 September 2021.

“This continued flexibility is necessary due to the continued impact of COVID-19 and to support the construction industry to recover and operate safely as we emerge from the pandemic,” Jenrick said in a parliamentary statement. He added that the end date will be kept under review.

Under the guidance, councils have 14 days to process applications for extended working, with the presumption of permission thereafter in the absence of a decision.

When first announced, the potential for longer working hours led to concerns about worker safety as well as warnings on cost overruns and legal issues, as a result of changes to agreed working patterns and programme schedules.

Builders’ merchants have also been encouraged to continue trading throughout the current lockdown and in his latest statement, Jenrick told local planning authorities to “continue to take a positive and flexible approach to planning enforcement action to support economic recovery and support social distancing”.

In guidance aimed at the wider retail sector, councils have been encouraged to allow trading from 7am to 10pm, Monday to Saturday, starting with step two of the government’s lockdown-exit roadmap – with more shops allowed to open no earlier than 12 April.