Construction sites in Harrogate start to shutdown amid confusion over government’s lockdown measures

Housebuilders in Harrogate have started shutting down their construction sites - despite the government’s insistence they can continue to operate.

Persimmon, Barratt and Stonebridge Homes have joined others in pledging to down tools to help protect workers from the coronavirus.

The government has said work can continue so long as people are two meters apart - but building bosses were left scratching their heads as to how this could be enforced on busy construction sites.

Now, pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to stop all non-essential construction work over fears the Covid-19 virus will spread easily between workers.

Housebuilders in Harrogate have started shutting down their construction sites.

Stonebridge Homes, which is building more than 100 houses in Harrogate, said it is closing down its Whinney Lane site, but construction will continue at Kingsley Farm in order for its customers to be able to move into their new homes as planned by the end of the month.

And where the work will carry on, the company said it is stepping up hygiene measures and observing workers to see if they are unwell.

It said: "We will be asking all workers who have either felt unwell, or been in contact with another person who has felt unwell, within the last 14 days to refrain from coming to site."

Persimmon said it is starting "an orderly shutdown" of its sites with only essential work continuing to makes builds safe and secure. It has three sites in Harrogate, bringing more than 750 new homes to the district over the coming years.

Barratt Developments - the UK's largest housebuilder - said it would close 400 sites and offices across the nation to prioritise "the health and safety of customers and employees". This includes its Kingsley Meadows site in Harrogate where more than 100 homes are being built.

The company said: "The board continues to closely monitor government guidance in respect of Covid-19. Whilst it is too early to make a reliable forecast about the duration or impact of the pandemic, and with our sites now closing, the board expects it to have a significant impact on both construction output and reservations."

Whilst work continues on other construction sites in the UK, industry officials are demanding further clarity from the government, raising concerns that current measures are risking the lives of employees and those they may come into contact with.

But Secretary of State for Housing MP Robert Jenrick has insisted it is “sensible” for construction work to continue - if employers follow Public Health England’s social distancing guidance.

An updated list of all the businesses and premises being told to close was today, Thursday, released by the government - and housebuilders have not been added.

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter