Coronavirus: Builders told they can work until 9pm in residential areas

13 May 2020, 17:35

Construction workers can have their shifts staggered until 9pm under new measures
Construction workers can have their shifts staggered until 9pm under new measures. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Construction sites can now remain open until 9pm in order to stagger shifts throughout the day under new measures announced by the housing secretary.

Robert Jenrick was speaking at the government's daily coronavirus press briefing from Downing Street on Wednesday afternoon.

He explained that the move to widen the construction industry's working day would make the environment safer for employees.

Mr Jenrick also promised the measure would "keep Britain building," even in residential areas.

The new rule will apply to weekdays and Saturdays pending local council permission.

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Coronavirus press conference (13 May 2020)

More flexible working hours will also curb crowding on public transport to ensure social distancing is upheld, the housing secretary added.

He said: "I’m keen to get construction up and running. To help with this, I’m today announcing further steps to support safe house building by allowing more flexible working hours on construction sites where it’s appropriate and with local consent.

"I’m allowing sites to apply to extend their working hours again with immediate effect to 9pm, Monday to Saturday in residential areas and beyond that in non-residential areas and setting out a very clear government position that these applications should be approved by local councils unless there are very compelling reasons not to do so."

It comes as estate agents in England were told on Tuesday they could immediately return to work and allow house viewings to restart in order to get the property market back up and running.

Roughly £82 billion-worth of property transactions had been put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Mr Jenrick continued: "Varied start and finish times will make it much easier for sites to observe social distancing, take the pressure off public transport, like the Tube in London, and keep Britain building."

The housing secretary said there were "countless examples" of construction companies "behaving responsibly and proactively" during the coronavirus crisis.

"I’d like to thank today Taylor Whimpey who have now got construction safely under way on the majority of their sites and have started removing staff from the furlough scheme and getting them back to work on full pay.

"They are offering a discount of 5 per cent for NHS staff and care workers on new homes, a great way to recognise the contribution that our frontline heroes are making across the country, so thank you to them."

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Mr Jenrick continued: "It’s also time that the planning system makes more use of digital technology to operate remotely and efficiently during this pandemic. I’m determined that the planning inspectorate is at the forefront of this work and I welcome the inspectorate now undertaking its first-ever virtual hearings.

"I’m asking them to make all hearings virtual within weeks so the planning system can resume and be made more permanently accessible and user friendly."

He added: "This is the most comprehensive restarting of an industry in the first phase of our road map.

"As housing secretary, I will do everything I can to support the millions of people employed in the construction and housing industries to help their sector bounce back while always prioritising their safety and wellbeing."