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Coronavirus Kent: 'Confusing' advice hinders construction projects

Workers in the construction industry are calling for more clarity from the government after "confusing" coronavirus advice has left many feeling they had no choice but to down tools.

The boss of a construction firm in Tonbridge says firms are being asked to implement "impossible" social distancing on building sites.

Construction workers tell KMTV they need clarity

"In construction, people work in pairs for safety," said Danny Lucas, managing director of Lucas Group UK.

"You're getting in lifts together, you're getting in hoists together, you're standing in smoking areas, going to canteens and passing in toilets.

"Social distancing on a construction site is absolutely brand new and almost impossible to police and enforce."

Maidstone has the highest number of construction firms in Kent (1,430), followed by Gravesham, and the industry employs nearly 40,000 people across the county, according to Kent County Council figures.

The government advice states you should only go to work if you are a key worker or you absolutely have to.

Minister for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, advised employees in the construction and building industries can carry on going to work on site, if they follow public health guidelines.

Danny added: "It's not as simple as that. From the man in the street who's earning the money, to the firm employing them, to the contractor, to the client, all of us are in a chain of command and won't be paid if we don't continue the project."

"We can only stop that if the government tell us explicitly to stop.

"If they leave it to us to make the decision on whether to work or not and introduce a set of rules rushed through in less 24 hours, what chance have we got?

"Everyone in the industry is now trying to work it out for themselves and in the meantime were being blamed that we're spreading the virus when we're just as worried as everybody else."

Kent's construction bosses say the industry has been left in limbo
Kent's construction bosses say the industry has been left in limbo

Despite health and safety concerns, hundreds of self-employed workers in the industry across the county were forced to go to work.

Cheryl Causebrook, a freelance construction consultant said: "The prospect of £94 a week for the next 12 weeks is daunting.

"My husband is a self-employed builder so the way its been handled by the government is very unnerving.

"For construction workers there's a danger they need to carry on earning money, most of us can't live beyond the end of the month."

Construction workers in the county have been turning to the Kent Construction Focus Group - a support network set up by the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce for advice.

"For construction workers there's a danger they need to carry on earning money, most of us can't live beyond the end of the month..."

Chair of the group, Ella Brocklebank, said: "The morally and socially correct thing to do would be the government issues clear-cut guidance that construction ceases for however long, because then we would all know what to do.

"At the moment we're just pulling together, taking advice from each other and doing what we feel is morally and socially correct to keep everybody safe."

Kent County Council say contractors are continuing with normal essential maintenance on potholes.

But added that planned works to refurbish Sandwich Toll Bridge have been postponed until later this year.

Southern Water added ongoing sewer repairs in Sandwich and roadworks on the A256 are deemed "critical infrastructure works" and are therefore continuing.

Read more: All the latest construction and housing news


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