Construction bodies have urged the Scottish Government to introduce a gradual reopening of non-essential construction sites, in line with health and safety requirements
In a letter to the minister for local government, housing and planning, Kevin Stewart MSP, the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Royal Incorporation of Architects Scotland (RIAS) outlined that urgent action is needed to avoid a long term, detrimental impact on the construction sector and the economy.
Signed by Gareth Williams, chair of CIOB Edinburgh Hub, and John Edwards, chair of RICS in Scotland, the letter states that stasis is already taking hold of the sector in Scotland with many projects at significant risk.
They say that unless measures are put in place now, outcomes will include long-term skills shortages, cost increases and reduced productivity.
Paralysis setting into the construction industry
The bodies state: “One of the biggest impacts of closed construction sites is that we are finding contractors and supply chains are now engaging in a comprehensive furlough of staff to the point that a state of paralysis is setting into the construction industry.
“Many projects are in jeopardy, even at pre-construction phase, because the supply chain cannot submit quotes and prices. Any delay in project planning and procurement will cause projects to be cancelled, and it could prolong the recovery.”
They say that the construction industry is well placed to police itself through relevant regulations, including additional HSE enforcement.
In addition to the lifting of the lockdown on building sites, CIOB, RICS and RIAS also call on the Scottish Government to introduce:
- The establishment of a VAT rebate fund for home repair and maintenance, and energy efficiency improvement measures, with parity between new build and existing properties.
- The prioritisation of preconstruction design and specification work leading to tenders, ensuring there is a flow of activity into the construction industry.
- Instructing appropriate building surveys/condition inspections now of publicly owned buildings, such as schools, colleges, museums and libraries that are currently vacant.
- Leading an initiative to encourage a large-scale public sector programme of maintenance works that will assist cash flow for SMEs, supporting the supply chain and retaining skills.
- Maintaining public sector pre-design and development work to ensure that design professionals are able to support future public sector development programmes.
- Having the Scottish National Investment Bank provide guarantees of bank lending, acting as a longer-term post-pandemic CBILS, that will encourage investment in Scotland’s infrastructure programme.
The letter “implores” the government to introduce the recommended measures, starting with the gradual reopening of non-essential construction sites.
Similar letters will also be going out to ministers in Wales and Northern Ireland. These are being signed by Gerald Naylor, chair of the CIOB Wales Hub and Gary Blair, chair of the CIOB Belfast Hub.