On 31st March, Partner and Head of Construction, Lorna Carter hosted a free live Q&A webinar discussing key issues for the construction sector during the COVID-19 pandemic. A key topic of discussion centred around the issue of closing down construction sites and associated legal and practical issues. The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has now published guidance “Advice on Temporary Suspension of Sites”, and we will also consider in this article some practical tips from a neutral perspective.
As the foundations of the economy begin to crumble under the onslaught of the coronavirus crisis, it is the construction industry that is posing one of the biggest challenges for government. Construction News reported yesterday that, “Coronavirus-related delays have hit projects across the UK with a total construction value of £104bn according to analysts”; and that “The total number of sites that have suspended work is 1,945, according to data provider Glenigan, amounting to 26 percent of the UK’s total. With disproportionately larger sites being unable to continue, it estimates that the £104bn construction value total of all suspended sites accounts for 65 percent of work currently under construction”
There have been several mixed messaged from government in respect of closing down sites, with many calling for sites to be shut down to tackle the spread, and others arguing they should remain open to support the economy.
In response, companies within the construction industry are taking matters into their own hands and closing for the foreseeable future including Mace, Galliard and Travis Perkins.
If construction companies opt to close down (or are ultimately mandated to do so like many other businesses), here are some practical points to consider:
– Notifying insurers of the intention to close the site
– Engaging in clear constructive communications with your client and the supply chain (and being mindful of any notice provisions in specific contracts)
– Keeping clear records of contemporaneous decisions, communications and notices
– Leaving sites in a way that is safe and secure being mindful of the risks of adverse weather and the new safety duty on RICS members.
– Taking photos of the site as you leave it to show how it has been left and that it has been left in a safe condition
Industry chiefs, trade bodies, unions, the general public and media continue to push for clarity from government and a strong central message; which is critical. We will keep you updated. In the meantime, if you need advice in respect of your legal position for closing down sites and postponing works, our highly experienced Construction team is on hand around the clock to provide urgent advice should you have any concerns.
If you missed Lorna’s webinar, you can watch it here.