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13 May 2020

Mayor supports plan to get region’s house building and construction sites safely back to work

A ‘Safe Working Charter’ to enable home builders to return to work safely and get the region’s construction sites back up and running, has been formally backed by Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street.

The Mayor today (Wednesday May 13) signed up to the Charter as a series of measures were announced to get the West Midlands and the rest of the UK building homes for the future.

A quick but safe return to work for the region’s construction industry is seen as crucial to the successful recovery of the West Midlands economy post-Covid-19.

It will also help the region get its ambitious home building programme back on track after doubling the number of homes being built annually over the last nine years to around 17,000 a year.

The Mayor said:

“Construction was one of the best performing economic sectors before the coronavirus outbreak hit, and the West Midlands was leading the way in brownfield land remediation and record house building.

“Therefore, a safe return to work for this sector is vital to help put our region on the right road to recovery and to help drive our future economic growth.

“This new Charter drawn up by the Homes Builders Federation and central Government can help us recapture our success quickly, whilst also making sure any return to work is done properly and safely.”

Last week the West Midlands Covid-19 Economic Impact Group (EIG), which brings together business leaders, central government, banks, trade unions, and local authorities including the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), announced that a road map to secure a successful post-Covid 19 economic recovery would focus on 10 key goals. One of the ten goals was to ‘build more homes faster and reshape town centres’.

The West Midlands needs to build 215,000 new homes by 2031 to meet future housing and economic demands and has been leading the way nationally in regenerating derelict former industrial sites, helping to relieve pressure on the Green Belt.

The region has also been driving advanced methods of construction to help deliver quality and affordable homes at scale and pace while training local people in the skills needed to construct them.

The Mayor’s signing of the Charter came as Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced a series of measures today (Wednesday May 13) to kick-start home construction including:

  • 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

Construction companies signing up to the Charter commit to returning to work safely, including working with their subcontractors to implement social distancing and staggered start times, as well as detailed safe working practices.

Stewart Baseley, Executive Chairman of the Home Builders Federation, said:

“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.”

The new Government guidance also makes clear that tradespeople including fitters can operate in homes, provided they do so in line with health guidance.

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

The measures came as the Housing Secretary also announced that from today anyone in England can move home if they follow new guidance.

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