Construction could hold key to economic revival post-COVID lockdown

Whatever your views on the relative merits of lifting lockdown measures while COVID-19 continues to live among us, it seems we are all agreed on one issue – it is a thriving construction industry that will give the clearest message that Britain is once again open for business.

In support of kickstarting building projects, the Government has issued revised planning guidelines aimed at helping the industry recover quickly to boost the wider economy.

And with leading figures in property development throwing their weight behind the idea of promoting planning applications based on the clear benefits construction projects provide in terms of job creation – particularly as we look set to head into a huge economic crisis with potential mass unemployment – the canvas seems ready for a new built environment to emerge.

As fewer people look set to work in traditional office spaces and remain in their home workspaces, the opportunity has arisen to develop energy efficient, eco-friendly, sustainable construction projects.

Never before has the environmental message been higher in the public psyche with such a drive from all quarters to see some relative good come from the horrors of the pandemic.

With high profile Government support, the construction industry could be a beacon for sustainable progress showing what is possible in the new era we’re heading into and how economies can actually prosper following environmentally friendly principles – and safe post-COVID working practices.

The UK Government has announced planning permission deadlines will be extended, planning appeals will be faster and builders will be allowed more flexible working hours following agreement with their local council.

Planning permission usually expires after three years if work has not started onsite but sites with consent that have an expiry date between the start of lockdown and the end of this year will now see their consent extended to 1 April 2021, meaning work that was temporarily disrupted by the pandemic will not stop altogether.

Without the new measures, the government estimates that by the end of this month, more than 400 residential permissions covering the development of more than 24,000 new homes would have expired.

The new guidelines also permanently grant the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) the ability to use more than one procedure – written representations, hearings and inquiries – at the same time when dealing with a planning appeal, enabling appeals to happen much faster – in some cases taking less than half the typical time.

Builders will be able to agree more flexible building site working hours with local councils making it easier to follow public health guidance onsite and by staggering builders’ arrival times, public transport will be less busy and the risk of infection will be reduced.

Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: ‘Taken together, these measures will help to keep workers safe and our economy moving as we work together to bounce back from the pandemic.’

Land and property prices appear to have held onto pre-COVID levels, experts report, but they predict significant reductions in the coming months.

Our own team has already identified the potential for a surge in developments converting unwanted office space into residential use as the work from home regime embeds itself further with social distancing measures too hard or costly to implement effectively and employees working smarter away from rigid office dwelling routines.

For those going back to work, a large programme of work has been undertaken to make buildings COVID secure with the opportunity taken to implement many efficient building practices as part of the overhaul.

Here at Syntegra, we are proud to say our range of services cover all of the above changes to the built environment – and we have used the enforced quiet pandemic period to introduce new areas of expertise to help companies address health and safety concerns arising from heightened awareness of workplace maintenance issues.

From overseeing initial commissioning work at the outset of a project, through navigating the planning process in accordance with building regulations and industry standards and best practice to conducting safety and efficiency assessments across all M&E systems, we are confident of the role we can play in moving he built environment to a healthier, more sustainable model in the ‘new normal’ environment.

For an initial consultation about how any of our services could benefit your project, please get in touch for an informal discussion.