New plans enable housing construction sites to open for longer

Government sets out plan to re-start housing market and get construction working again.

The UK government has outlined new plans to allow extended hours on construction sites and to make the planning system operate remotely again.

Effective from today (13/5/20), ministers say the plans are the latest initiative to help the housing market and construction industry recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A Safe Working Charter launched by the government and the Home Builders Federation, enabling home builders to return to work safely, includes the following measures:

  • Allowing builders to agree more flexible construction site working hours with their local council, such as staggering builders’ arrival times, easing pressure on public transport;
  • Enabling local councils and developers to publicise planning applications through social media instead of having to rely on posters and leaflets, helping to unblock the service;
  • Support for smaller developers by allowing them to defer payments to local councils, helping those struggling with their cash flow while ensuring communities still receive funding towards local infrastructure in the longer term.

The new plans also include a series of measures to enable people to move home safely and to re-start the housing market in line with social distancing advice. Estate agent offices can open; viewings are permitted; show homes can open; removal companies and the other essential parts of the sales and letting process are re-started with immediate effect.

The changes come after more than 450,000 buyers and renters have been unable to progress their plans to move since March.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: “Our clear plan will enable people to move home safely, covering each aspect of the sales and letting process from viewings to removals. Our step by step plan is based on the latest guidance to ensure the safety and protection of everyone involved. This critical industry can now safely move forward, and those waiting patiently to move can now do so.”

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation, said: “Over the past week or so many house builders have commenced a gradual return to work, in a structured way that ensures the safety of its workforce and the general public.  

“The industry sustains hundreds of thousands of people in numerous roles and associated sectors, boosting local economies across the country. A resumption of work will play a major part in helping the economy recover as well as delivering the homes the country needs.  

“It should also provide the supply chain with the confidence it needs to accelerate its own restart. The Charter is the public facing evidence which supports the very detailed protocols individual builders now have in place to ensure safe working on sites.

John Newcomb, chief executive officer of the Builders Merchants Federation, said: “Safety has the highest priority as the industry returns to work. Over the past three weeks, since the publication of new branch operating guidelines, we have seen increasing numbers of merchants safely re-opening or expanding operations to support their trade customers.  

“House builders structured return to site provides even more confidence within the supply chain, and provides further evidence of the construction industry’s determination to assist in the recovery of the UK economy.”

The Safe Working Charter compliments detailed guidance available from the Construction Leadership Council on further reducing the risk of infection onsite.

If you would like to contact Rob O’Connor about this, or any other story, please email