Coronavirus: Persimmon's sites begin 'orderly shutdown'

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A construction siteImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
One worker said people were still going to building sites

Construction company Persimmon has said its sites in Wales have started "an orderly shutdown" with only "essential work taking place".

It said this was to make partly built homes safe and that only homes which would leave someone otherwise homeless would be completed.

The firm was responding to claims it told staff it was "business as usual".

Persimmon said its primary concern was customer, staff, contractor and supplier safety.

Construction firms across the UK have been split over whether to halt development, with confusion around the UK government's advice.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said earlier in the week there was a "strong case" for closing some construction sites but added it was "complicated".

Redrow, which has its headquarters at Ewloe, Flintshire, has said all of its building sites and sales offices are now closed because of coronavirus.

Persimmon had joined a growing number of firms in pledging to down tools on non-essential work on Wednesday, after fears were raised by workers across the UK about their safety.

But a Persimmon worker, who wished to remain anonymous, told BBC Wales managers in Wales were telling staff things would continue as normal.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Persimmon said building sites could not just be abandoned

He said that, while outside contractors had stopped coming to the sites for safety reasons, painters and decorators were still coming to work.

"There's complete uncertainty and it is left very vague and it was very hard to know what is essential and what is not essential," he added.

"Basically all staff have been told if they don't go to work they won't be paid so they have to go to work".

Persimmon said all its sites had begun "an orderly shutdown with only essential work taking place".

'Listen to advice'

This, it said, would be "focused on making partly built homes safe and secure and where failure to complete the build could put customers in a vulnerable position".

The company added that construction sites cannot just be abandoned and that works, such as the removal of scaffolding, had to be done to make sites safe.

The Persimmon Group's chief executive, David Jenkinson, said: "Our primary concern is the safety and well-being of our customers, staff, contractors and suppliers and we have today set out a number of further measures throughout the business to protect them for the duration of the pandemic.

"We will listen carefully to the government's future advice as the situation develops and will make further adjustments where necessary."