Persimmon and Bellway shutting construction sites
Housebuilders Bellway and Persimmon are shutting construction sites despite being allowed to stay open amid the lockdown to help protect workers from coronavirus.
Newcastle-headquartered Bellway said it was closing its 200 building sites by the end of Friday, with site managers only allowed onto developments to maintain security or to hand over keys to buyers.
Charles Church builder Persimmon confirmed it is also starting an “orderly shutdown” of its construction sites.
It said it would continue with essential work only, making partly-built homes safe, where otherwise customers could be left in a vulnerable position.
We weren’t convinced we could police the social distancing or keep workers two metres apart at sites.
We weren’t convinced we could police the social distancing or keep workers two metres apart at sites ~ Jason Honeyman, Bellway chief executive
Bellway has already shut its sales offices and Persimmon is closing its sales network from Thursday, offering telephone and online-only customer support.
Bellway chief executive Jason Honeyman told the PA news agency the decision to shut its construction sites in spite of being exempt from the Government-imposed lockdown came as a result of fears for worker safety.
He said: “We weren’t convinced we could police the social distancing or keep workers two metres apart at sites.
“There’s always some people who ignore it.”
He added that the group was also unable to get materials as builders’ merchants are closed and there are no deliveries.
It comes as pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to order that all non-essential construction work is halted amid worries that workers travelling to sites will hamper efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus.
In its half-year results, Bellway also cautioned it expects buyer demand to “almost cliff edge” as the UK locks down.
The group said sales have plunged by around 40% this week as strict new social distancing measures came into effect with cancellation rates also more than doubling to around 30%.
Mr Honeyman said: “I would expect it (sales declines) to continue beyond that and almost cliff edge.”
Persimmon also warned it was “preparing for a significant delay in the timing of legal completions, a rise in cancellation rates and a material slowdown in new sales”.
Interim figures from Bellway showed a 7% fall in pre-tax profit to £291.8 million for the six months to January 31.
Revenues rose 3.6% to £1.54 billion, but average sales prices fell slightly to £286,570, from £293,832 a year ago.
AS MY CONSTITUENT MP, PLEASE CALL FOR THE IMMEDIATE CLOSURE OF ALL HOMES ENGLAND CONSORTIUM CONSTRUCTION SITES [SUCH AS BOVIS AND TAYLOR WOODROW] ‘WEST OF IFIELD’ AND KILNWOOD VALE- [eg SA101 – SA291 – SA468]
Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, last night said building sites should close in order to “save lives”
Coronavirus Scotland: Will Scots construction staff need to carry on working during lockdown?
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last night said building sites should close in order to “save lives”.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last night said building sites should close following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s order of a police-enforced country-wide lockdown.
But there has been confusion over conflicting advice from the UK government, which said construction work can continue so long as workers remain at least two metres apart.
So what should construction workers in Scotland do?
Advice for construction staff in Scotland
In a statement, Ms Sturgeon said she had been “specifically” asked about building sites and that her advice would be for them to close to put less strain on the NHS and to stop people “dying needlessly”.
The SNP leader said last night: “It has been clear to me that there are still too many people across our country who are being expected to, or expecting to, go to work as normal and this presents a serious and unnecessary risk of spreading the virus.
“This morning I was specifically asked on radio about building sites and hair salons and my advice would be to close.
“If our National Health Service becomes overwhelmed people will die needlessly. This is about saving lives.”
Speaking at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, the First Minister gave an update in which she advised construction sites to close unless the work was essential, such as building a hospital.
She said: “The question you must ask yourself is can you operate your business in line with safe social distancing practise, and of course, health and safety requirements?
“If you cannot answer yes to those questions then in our view you should not continue to be open.”
She added: “We are expecting them to be closed unless the building being worked on is essential such as a hospital.”
When quizzed again on the construction industry by Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw she added: “My judgment is based on the advice I have right now. Construction sites should not continue.”
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Several construction companies in Scotland have taken the decision to close, following the First Minister’s advice.
Sandy Adam, the chairmain of Springfield Properties PLC – which builds homes across Scotland – announced he was closing building sites, adding that it’s “not useful to have conflicting advice from UK government ministers.”
He tweeted: “We have taken the advice of @NicolaSturgeon and are closing all our building sites until further notice. It’s not useful to have conflicting advice from UK govt ministers. The safety of our employees must come first.”
Confusion with the rest of the UK
The advice from the First Minister is in contrast to unclear advice given to the rest of the UK.
Boris Johnson is now facing calls for clarity after changing his last minute guidance for construction and maintenance workers, telling them to continue working but to practice social distancing.
Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, posted on Twitter: “Advice for the housing, construction & building maintenance industries: If you can work from home, do so.
“If you are working on site, you can continue to do so. But follow Public Health England guidance on social distancing.
“Outside of work, remember to #StayHomeSaveLives.”
Meanwhile, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove appeared on Good Morning Britain today to shed light on uncertainty.