Since March, many construction companies and developers have either experienced delays or completely halted activity. Whilst restrictions have been eased more recently and many are eager to return to site, it will be more important than ever to ensure that no unnecessary delays are encountered in the remainder of the project.
Previous data has shown that the construction industry is a large contributor to economic recovery in the UK as roles across the industry including manufacturing, architecture, engineering and construction sectors are significant generators of employment, which ultimately, will help rebalance the state of the economy.
Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics for Gross Domestic Product estimated that throughout lockdown, the UK’s economy is likely to exceed a loss of over £300 billion and depending on the speed that lockdown is fully lifted, this figure could be significantly higher.
The UK economy will be partly dependant on a quick recovery of the property sector to help ease some of the COVID constraints. It will be important for developers to ensure that as works recommence, they can mitigate any further delays by addressing points that remain within their control.
Under normal circumstances, issues can arise when the correct documentation is not in place or has expired. Whilst sites are slowly getting opening back up, it may be useful to check that any desk-based work is in order, particularly if admin points would not need to be re-visited had the project run on schedule.
Below is a list of items it might be useful to think ahead on or reconsider:
Projects have faced unexpected delays, and some extra work may need to be done around the temporary closure and reopening of sites. In particular, checking the validity of documentation is important at this stage, for example:
- Professional Indemnity Insurance: Professional Indemnity Insurance normally runs for a set period of time. It is important to check that this will still be valid when construction teams return to work, especially if the developer’s project was near completion before the government restrictions were implemented.
- F10 Notices: Crucially, these notices ensure that everyone is working safely which is particularly key during a global pandemic. Notably, if these are already in place, staying mindful of expiration dates will ensure that the notices are still valid when works recommence.
- JCT Contracts: JCT Contracts provide a contract between the Main Contractor and the developer. Similar to Professional Indemnity Insurance, they are also in place for a set period of time and so, an ‘extension of time’ application will need to be processed. Even if expiration of this document isn’t imminent, it might be worthwhile applying for extensions as delays in the forthcoming months are possible.
Pre-Commencement Planning Conditions:
If developers are in the early stages of a scheme’s progress, it is likely that there will be a number of Pre-Commencement Planning Conditions that will need to be discharged by the Local Authority. With sites slowly re-opening, now is a good opportunity to ensure the required information that is needed to satisfy these conditions is in order.
If these points have not been submitted and works restart, there is a risk that the local authority could halt operations which will cause further delays. Whilst the local authority may not discharge these conditions as quickly as expected during the lockdown period, if conditions have been submitted developers will be in a better position to push ahead.
Party Walls Awards:
Party Walls Awards are often a contentious issue for many development projects. If a project is adjoining to neighbouring properties and works have been halted on site, it would be a good time to address the issue of a Party Wall Award if this has not already been done. It is expected that after restrictions are fully lifted, there will be sizeable cash injections into projects, particularly as demand increases for materials and so, avoiding additional costly payments which may arise from neighbour damage claims further down the line would be recommended. These claims are generally far more expensive than obtaining Party Wall Awards and so, addressing this now would be a good option.
Overall, as the construction sector is expected to be a significant contributor to economic recovery once lockdown is eased, making use of time now will ensure that developers are in a stable place when work on site is recommenced.