Persimmon plans phased return south of the border from Monday



Housebuilder Persimmon has followed Taylor Wimpey in announcing plans to start reopening sites but like its rival, this will not be applicable to Scotland just yet.

Construction will resume from Monday in accordance with new site operating procedures and social distancing measures.

The company said its decision is in response to the UK Government’s objective of getting the construction sector back to work.

But it confirmed to Scottish Construction Now that it will await guidance from the Scottish Government before opening sites north of the border.

Persimmon announced the implementation of a range of measures in response to the COVID-19 outbreak on March 25, including the closure of all of its sales offices, the migration of non-site colleagues to home working and an orderly shutdown of its construction sites.

The firm said its top priority is the health and safety of the public, and its customers, colleagues, sub-contractors and suppliers, and that it continues to closely follow Public Health England’s guidance including instituting and maintaining social distancing practices.

Sales teams have continued to serve new and existing customers, making use of online resources, including virtual viewings and digitalised reservation processes. This has resulted in about 820 gross private sales reservations being secured in the five weeks ended 19 April. Cancellation rates remain at historically low levels. 

Persimmon said in a statement: “The Government has issued clear guidance that it sees construction as a vital element of the UK economy and that where sites can comply with the Construction Leadership Council’s Standard Operating Procedures, then they should continue to operate.

“Persimmon is keen to support the government in meeting this objective but the health, safety and wellbeing of the public and everyone who works on our sites and in our offices remains our top priority, and we will not recommence construction operations until we are satisfied that it is safe to do so.

“In the period since 25 March 2020, working closely with our colleagues, sub-contractors and suppliers, we have therefore developed and tested a range of new site protocols to enable work to recommence, while ensuring that the necessary social distancing restrictions are strictly enforced.

“These new measures are fully compliant with UK Government and Construction Leadership Council guidance.

“The group is therefore announcing today that it will begin a phased re-opening of its construction sites from the morning of Monday 27 April 2020 which will allow us to support our customers by completing the construction of the new homes they have purchased in a safe and responsible manner.”

“Where necessary, and within the bounds of social distancing restrictions, construction work has continued in certain limited instances to complete the construction of new homes to ensure that no customers were left homeless through this period,” the statement added.

Persimmon said it has not furloughed any staff during the crisis or used any of the UK Government’s COVID-19 funding programmes. Around 30% of colleagues have been unable to work during the shutdown period but have continued to be paid in full by Persimmon.

The firm added that it was continuing to pay all suppliers and all taxes on time.

David Jenkinson, CEO, said: “The UK Government has been very clear on the importance of the construction sector to the UK economy and its desire to see activity continue through the current period of crisis, provided appropriate public health measures are adopted. 

“Nothing is more important to us than the health, safety and wellbeing of the public, our colleagues, sub-contractors and suppliers. Having spent the last month developing and testing new site protocols that incorporate the necessary social distancing and protective measures, we believe that we are now able to return to site safely and support the UK’s economic recovery from the pandemic. These new measures are fully compliant with government public health guidance and will be strictly enforced by a specialist team, with any individual failing to uphold standards being subject to disciplinary action and removal from site.

“Persimmon’s strong financial liquidity has enabled us to maintain our operational capability through this period by supporting all our colleagues on full pay, which will allow us to reopen sites swiftly, and emerge from the shutdown well-prepared and ready to deliver the new homes the country needs, aided by our strong work in progress position.

“The commitment from our colleagues throughout this most challenging period, both to the business and to the wider communities in which we work, has been exceptional and I would like to thank them all for their unstinting support.”

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