It will be a long road to a full recovery but here is some good news to show we are starting to head in the right direction. Several major building and construction sites are reopening in England and Wales
National housebuilder Taylor Wimpey has announced a phased reopening of its construction sites in England and Wales, beginning on May 4.
The company also says house purchase cancellations have represented less than 1% of the total order book since it closed its sites and sales office from March 24, with new sales (200) exceeding the number of cancellations.
Taylor Wimpey said it was now confident it had clear plans and processes in place so it could safely start back on site in a phased way beginning on May 4, starting with its own site management teams to prepare sites for a new method of operating ,with the first subcontractors returning on the week commencing May 11.
“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,” it said.
“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.”
The Taylor Wimpey COVID-19 Code of Conduct has also been created, setting out its commitment to deliver a safe working environment for employees and subcontractors working on site.
Taylor Wimpey said it would make its new working practices available to others if requested free of charge, which it believes will be useful for smaller housebuilders with limited resources.
The sites reopening will not apply to its Scottish business until a return to construction receives the Scottish Government’s support. Sales centres, show homes and regional offices will still remain closed for the time being.
Taylor Wimpey has furloughed employees based solely on the level of work they could meaningfully do while sites were closed. All furloughed employees will remain on their full pay during their period of furlough.
“During the period while our sites have been closed, trading has inevitably been impacted,” the company said. “However, we are still seeing continued demand for our homes and our sales teams have been selling homes remotely, and digitally, week to week.”
Taylor Wimpey’s order book has continued to increase and as at week ending April 19 2020, the total value stood at approximately £2.67bn (2019 week 16: £2.39bn).
Redrow is the second major national housebuilder to announce a reopening of construction sites within the last few days.
Redrow said it was confident safe working on its construction sites could be operated and would start reopening a number of its sites from the week of May 11, with a phased return to construction on May 18.
“This will include putting robust social distancing protocols and physical measures in place, to ensure the safety of our colleagues and wider communities.
“In particular, we will have an e-learning module for all Redrow employees, induction videos for contractors, appointed Covid Supervisors for each site and enhanced signage and PPE.
Fellow housebuilder Taylor Wimpey announced last week that it was starting a phased return to construction, beginning on May 4. It also said its sales had outnumbered cancellations during the period of site and sales office closures.
UK builders merchanting giant Travis Perkins (TP) is reopening more of its branch network to give greater support to large construction firms and subcontractors as they restart construction sites.
The move also gives smaller, local trade customers improved access to products.
TP also said revenue performance in its Wickes and Toolstation businesses has continued to improve with the businesses responding at pace to the changing nature of the trading environment, reconfiguring to significantly increase the capability of distribution networks to cope with the “high levels of consumer demand”.
The group has been operating a “service-light” model since the government’s announcement of restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic on March 23.
Throughout the early weeks around a third of its total merchanting branches were operating, primarily running call and collect or direct delivery services.
In the first three weeks of April in this service-light model, Group total revenue was approximately one-third of the same period in 2019 on a comparable basis.
Overall, the combination of current trading levels and the mitigations taken to control the overhead cost base means that for the first month of lockdown the Group experienced an overhead cash outflow of around £50m.
“With more Merchanting branches reopening with a corresponding increase in sales volume and the continued progression of trading in the Wickes and Toolstation businesses, the Group expects this cash outflow to reduce over the coming weeks,” the company said.
Wickes and Toolstation have been operating across the vast majority of their branch networks, with branches acting as fulfilment centres for transactions completed via digital channels for either direct delivery, or with essential items being available for collection within a designated time slot.
The Group is benefitting from the business rates holiday, a saving of around £90m for the Group on an annualised basis.
The closure of branches, particularly across the merchanting businesses, has led to the furloughing of both front line branch teams and colleagues in support functions.
Altogether around half of the Group’s 30,000 staff were furloughed (on full pay) for the first three weeks of the lockdown.
“We continue to adapt our operations, applying stringent social distancing and using technology to enable contactless operations, and we are therefore able to respond to the Government’s call to ensure that the construction industry can continue to deliver on crucial programmes and projects and be an engine for future economic recovery,” said Nick Roberts, TP chief executive.
“As we move forward we will continue to adjust our operations, with our foremost priority to keep colleagues and customers safe and the industry supplied with the materials it needs.”
In recent weeks, the Group has been working closely with customers, suppliers, trade bodies and the UK Government to develop safe-working protocols which can be applied across the construction supply chain to enable more activity to be carried out safely under lockdown.
National housebuilder Persimmon has commenced a phased return to work, with stringent reopening measures in place to ensure compliance with the new procedures for safe working.
The housebuilder had introduced an orderly shutdown of its construction sites in late March after the government’s announcement of restrictions on business to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Persimmon has maintained its current workforce, including those that were stood down during the period of low activity, to ensure it is in a position to respond quickly when construction sites were able to reopen.
Persimmon has reported continued good levels of customer enquiries since the government’s announcement, “providing encouragement with regards to the resilience of demand for good quality newly built homes at attractive prices across the UK”.
In the six weeks ended April 26, the Group secured 962 gross private sales reservations, with a total of 948 legal completions being made in the same period.
The company’s off-site manufacturing capability for timber frames, closed panel construction systems, bricks and roof tiles will “ensure continuity of supply of key materials on the reopening of our construction sites”.
The Group’s current forward sales position, with total forward sales revenue, including legal completions taken to date in 2020, is £2.4bn (2019: £2.7bn).
“The financial position of the Group is strong and our selling prices presently remain firm,” it said. “During these uncertain times, maintaining financial flexibility and supporting all of our workforce ensures that we are being able to gradually reopen sites and provide high levels of quality and service to our customers on delivery of their new homes.
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