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Tue June 02 2020

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Major house-builders prepare to remobilise

23 Apr After a four-week shut-down, some of Britian's biggest house-builders are preparing to get back to work very soon.

House-building sites have been shut for four weeks but some will soon be re-opening
House-building sites have been shut for four weeks but some will soon be re-opening

Vistry Group, the house-builder that includes Bovis and Linden, is reopening most of its site from Monday 27th April, it revelaed today.

Taylor Wimpey is beginning remobilisation the following Monday, 4th May, with subcontractors starting a week later.

Most major house-builders like Vistry and Taylor Wimpey started closing their sites after the government announced the lockdown on 23rd March, and the suspension of all non-urgent work, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Sites have now been closed for four weeks.

Vistry said that it would give priority to sites most likely to generate cash the most quickly. It expects to be active again on 90% of its partnership sites next week, where it builds under contract for third parties.

“The high level of contracted forward sales within this business provides certainty of the cash realisation from these sites,” Vistry said.

For its own private house-building business the initial focus “will be on homes which are watertight and where we have clear visibility of completion and hence cash realisation”.

It added:  “Activity levels will commence in a measured way, increasing steadily, and maintaining a tight control on work in progress. We have been in close dialogue with our supply chain partners who are supportive of our plans."

Even during the lockdown, Vistry and Taylor Wimpey’s sales teams have been able to work remotely, giving virtual tours to customers. In the past four weeks Vistry has taken 132 reservations, exchanged on 170 homes and legally completed 193 private sales. Office-based employees will continue to work from home where possible, Vistry said.

At Vistry, the majority of staff have been furloughed during the period of site closure – on 100% of their regular pay until at least the end of May. They have been encouraged to support the broader community and many are involved in initiatives including sourcing and transporting PPE and other equipment to the front line, joining the NHS National Army and working as on-call firefighters.

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Vistry chief executive Greg Fitzgerald said: "I would like to thank all our colleagues and subcontractors for their remarkable resilience and commitment during these times and am pleased to announce that we will be recommencing activity levels across the majority of our developments on Monday 27th.  Health & safety remains our top priority and a huge amount or work has gone into making sure our people can return to work with confidence in safe and well-planned operating procedures.  This first step represents a positive move for the group, as well as the wider economy, and the critically important delivery of new homes."

Taylor Wimpey has also set out its strategy for a phased return to site construction and operating, with strict social distancing protocols. Its own site management teams will use the week commencing 4th May to prepare sites for a new method of operating with the first subcontractors returning on the week commencing 11th May.

Taylor Wimpey said: “On 24 March we announced the orderly closing of our sites, show homes and sales centres to protect the health and safety of our customers, employees and subcontractors across the UK. While construction was deemed a permitted activity by the UK government, we believed that it was essential to be confident that we could modify our working practices to adhere to strict social distancing guidance and this required time and careful planning. We received strong support for this early decision from all stakeholder groups, particularly our customers, employees and subcontractors.

“Since then, we have worked closely with our partners, reviewing guidance issued by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) and taken advice from the Health & Safety Executive, to assess each and every aspect of our site activities and address the changes that need to be made to fully comply with the restrictions imposed by social distancing requirements.

“We are now confident that we have a clear set of detailed protocols and revised guidelines which we can operate safely, and on a sustainable basis for as long as is necessary. These protocols include a fully revised set of working practices and additional precautionary measures including modified site operational practices, revised risk assessments, inductions, and changes to site format, including bespoke PPE for two-person tasks which we have designed in-house.

“In addition, we have created the Taylor Wimpey Covid-19 Code of Conduct setting out our commitment to deliver a safe working environment for our employees and subcontractors working on site, while stating our very clear expectations of behaviours of all those visiting our sites to work. We will be regularly monitoring and enforcing these behaviours on our sites and will require all staff, subcontractors and suppliers to sign up to this Code of Conduct in advance of starting on site.”

Just like Vistry, Taylor Wimpey has had many employees on furlough and they too have stepped up to serve their local community. The Taylor Wimpey Isolation Challenge raised £66,000 for the NHS, Crisis and Childline while PPE has been distributed to local NHS and care homes.

Taylor Wimpey has also been running an in-house manufacturing project with employees, which is supplying GP surgeries and care homes with reusable 3D-printed face visors. This project has so far serviced 32 locations and has spawned a wider project to support care homes, procuring and delivering basic PPE to about 50 care homes across the country with PPE needs, including 75,000 masks, 75,000 aprons and 38,000 pairs of gloves.

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