Housing developers Persimmon and Bellway shut all their building sites due to coronavirus because they couldn’t guarantee social isolation rules
- Newcastle-based Bellway said it was closing 200 building sites by Friday night
- Site managers only allowed on to them to maintain security or to hand over keys
- Charles Church builder Persimmon confirmed it is starting an ‘orderly shutdown’
- It comes as pressure is mounting on PM to order all non-essential work is halted
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Housebuilders Persimmon and Bellway are shutting construction sites despite being exempt from the UK-wide coronavirus lockdown to help protect workers from the coronavirus.
Newcastle-based Bellway said it was closing its 200 building sites by the end of Friday, with site managers only allowed on to 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, following the lead of rivals Taylor Wimpey and Barratt Developments.
It comes as pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to order all non-essential construction work is halted amid worries workers travelling to sites will hamper efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Persimmon confirmed it is also starting an ‘orderly shutdown’ of its construction sites (pictured, in Durham)
It comes as pressure is mounting on the PM to order all non-essential construction work is halted amid worries workers travelling to sites will hamper efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus. Pictured: A construction site in London on Wednesday
Persimmon said it would continue with essential work only, making partly-built homes safe, where otherwise customers could be left in a vulnerable position.
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 said the decision to shut its construction sites in spite of being exempt from the Government-imposed lockdown came due to 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.’
Persimmon said it would continue with essential work only, making partly-built homes safe. Pictured: A sign in the window of a sales office at Persimmon Homes in Larbert in Scotland
He added the group was also unable to get materials as builders’ merchants are closed and there are no deliveries.
Builder Redrow said on Tuesday its sites would remain open, tough it insisted there were ‘strict precautions in place including enhanced levels of cleaning, additional hygiene facilities and social distancing’.
Retirement home specialist builder McCarthy & Stone confirmed on Wednesday it was pausing developments – but would keep open some sites that are nearly done.
In its half-year results, Bellway cautioned it expects buyer demand to ‘almost cliff edge’ as the UK locks down.
A sign regarding coronavirus in the window of a sales office at Persimmon Homes in Larbert in Scotland
The group said sales have plunged by around 40 per cent this week as strict new social distancing measures came into effect with cancellation rates also more than doubling to around 30 per cent.
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 per cent 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.
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