‘The works are putting my family’s lives at risk from the virus’

Shocking video footage and photographs, taken by council residents who are terrified that they might contract coronavirus, show construction workers taking no special measures to avoid spreading the deadly disease

This video was filmed yesterday by a mother with a small child living in a council flat on Longheath Gardens.

It clearly shows how builders from Henry Construction, on a Brick by Brick building site, are continuing to work with scant regard for the requirements of the covid-19 emergency lockdown. There’s no sign of any face masks being used, and little in the way of social distancing by two metres.

And as the video, and other photographs taken today show, the building work that is continuing despite the government-ordered lockdown appears far from what any reasonable person might call “essential work”.

Brick by Brick is the council-owned, loss-making house-building company which, in five years and with at least £260million of public money borrowed, has managed to deliver a grand total of three one-bed council homes.

‘Social distancing’ does not exist for these workers on a BxB site

Inside Croydon readers who have the misfortune to have a Brick by Brick site imposed on their neighbourhood in other parts of the borough report similar, non-essential work being carried out, too, including at Montpelier Road – one of the sites that Brick by Brick announced on Monday would be shutting down due to the pandemic emergency.

In Longheath Gardens, the existing residents have had to put up with construction work going on outside their living room window for nearly three years.

On Monday, Brick by Brick announced that work at Longheath Gardens would be continuing, despite the pandemic. They said it was because it would be “a significant business risk to close them”.

Paul Dury, whose partner Lissa Williams took the video, told Inside Croydon, “We feel that by continuing with these works, Brick by Brick and Henry Construction are putting my family’s lives in real jeopardy from the spread of coronavirus.”

Williams has underlying health issues and is on the NHS’s vulnerable list, while their son also has health issues.

Yet Colm Lacey, the chief executive of Brick by Brick, sent out an email today in which he says, “We are closely following government guidance with regard to our construction sites. Our approach has focused on ensuring the safety of staff who work on Brick By Brick schemes, as well as those who may live in close proximity.”

That has not been the experience of others living close to other Brick by Brick sites, sometimes where other contractors.

“The workers are just carrying on as if nothing has happened,” said a resident living near the Montpelier site in Purley, who asked not to be named.

There is a stark difference between what BxB says publicly and how their sites are operated

“They have never had any real concern for the safety or health of residents living here, from the moment they bulldozed the garages without taking proper precautions over the asbestos dust they created.

“Brick by Brick said on Monday that they were closing down the site. But there are still builders there, taking no coronavirus precautions, and putting our lives at risk through the potential spread of the virus and the NHS at risk.

“It is just extreme recklessness – with our lives.”

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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6 Responses to ‘The works are putting my family’s lives at risk from the virus’

  1. sebastiantillinger7694 says:

    Has Lacey got the knowledge and experience to be making these types of decisions?

    I think not.

  2. Dan Maertens says:

    Whilst this looks problematic, as long as windows and doors are closed on the parts of the accommodation that is in proximity to the workers, there is virtually no chance of transmission of virus to the householders from the works. But, it would be better if the temporary fencing was repositioned so that none of the construction workers could get closer than 2 metres to any part of the occupied residential premises. I appreciate that this will compromise some of the work that they are doing, but it’s in the interests of limiting the possibility of transmission that is important.

    What would concern me more is the lack of social distancing showed in the video footage. It clearly shows that for the guys on site it’s ‘business as usual’. This is flouting both the current Public Health England advice, as well as industry advice (see Construction Leadership Council advice: http://www.constructionleadershipcouncil.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Site-Operating-Procedures-23-March-2020-v1.pdf.)

    In addition, the Construction Industry Training Board has recently published a tool box talk on the arrangements and working practices that should be implemented on site during this current pandemic (Link: https://www.citb.co.uk/coronavirus-toolbox-talk/).

    My ‘hunch’ is that Brick By Brick will say that they have advised their Main Contractors that they must abide by the current industry advice. What arrangements Henry Construction may have put in place, I can’t comment, but they owe a duty of care to their employees, their subcontractors and everyone else who is affected by the work that they are undertaking who is not an employee – i.e. the residents and adjacent occupiers. Obviously, the failings that have been witnessed would strongly suggest that Henry Construction are not complying with their statutory duties to have in place ‘safe systems of work’ and ‘monitor’ their Subcontractors (at least one of the operatives appears to be wearing branded PPE with a different company logo).

    It’s sad that this kind of stupidity and ignorant behaviour sullies the reputation of the wider construction industry, but as is often said, strong leadership comes from the top. If Brick By Brick and their Main Contractors were serious about this issue, they should commission an audit of the arrangements that are in place on each of the sites that remain in operation, and immediately close those that fail any part of the operating procedures in the link above, unless they can demonstrate that there are robust ‘alternative arrangements’ in place. Shops and supermarkets can do it – there’s no reason why Brick By Brick’s sites that have to remain operational can’t do it as well.

    The greater fear is for the individuals shown in the video clip, and their families – those that share the same households. Working in the way that they are, is potentially hazardous and foolhardy, and is creating the situation that we should all be using our best endeavours to avoid – catching the coronavirus, and then spreading it. As far as I know, construction workers don’t have any special immunity.

    • The lack of distancing by the workers – and there are other videos of their working practices which underline this – is indeed the concern of the residents.
      The circumstances that the families living with this building site abutting their homes have been appalling enough as it is. But the reckless disregard being shown by the workers, and therefore their management, to the demands of the lockdown are deeply troubling.
      And these people are effectively working on behalf of Croydon Council.

      • Dan Maertens says:

        Almost one week on and it seems that Henry Construction still haven’t got the message. Either they don’t check out ‘Inside Croydon’, or their client ‘Brick by Brick’ hasn’t brought the issues above to their attention. Or perhaps, they’re just slow learners.

        This afternoon I was passing above the Kindred House (Scarbrook Road) site from the vantage of the A232 coming back into Croydon from undertaking an audit of a site in Kingston, where by pure coincidence, I reviewed the Covid-19 arrangements being implemented to allow construction work to continue on site in safety. The few people that I could see on the Henry Construction managed Kindred House project were working much closer together than the recommended ‘social distancing’ 2 metres, and I couldn’t see any of them wearing RPE that might have conferred some level of protection if they couldn’t maintain an appropriate level of physical separation, for operational reasons.

        Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take a photo, otherwise I would be raising the issue direct with Henry Construction Management Limited. I just hope that after the Company Directors have finished chomping their Easter eggs over the weekend, they might think about explaining to their workforce exactly how they should behave, if they don’t want their sites to be shut down because they can’t be bothered to follow PHE / government advice like the rest of us.

  3. To be ‘fair’ (honest and open), it is not only those development sites owned by Brick by Brick on which the lack of social distancing is being allowed to occur.

    The Council’s apparently soon-to-be-retired Head of Development Management (Pete Smith), very recently told a local councillor with regard to works at 22 Briton Crescent (South Croydon), that he had “… spoken to the contractor this morning, who … advised that the level of activity on site is now relatively light – in view of current circumstances (with safe distancing) with only 2-3 workman on site at any one time. …”

    This has since been disputed by one local resident, who when writing about another ‘nuisance’ being caused by those working on this site, told the Council’s enforcement team “…. contrary to what Mr Smith has recently claimed … there are innumerable times every day, when the two-metre enforced Government rule is not being observed. …”

    In response, the ‘enforcement’ team leader (Robert Snodin) has advised as follows:
    “…Thank you for the e-mail the contents of which have been noted, however the Local Planning Authority and specifically the Planning Enforcement team do not have the powers to enforce the new legislation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing. Such a matter is for the Police to deal with, however as Central Government has decided currently that construction can continue in the open air and on new sites I think it would be unlikely that there would be a great deal that those who would be asked to attend would be able to do in the current circumstances….”

    So it seems that from the Council’s viewpoint, there’s nothing much the public can really do to stop this, we will just have to grin and bear it … and that goes for work on any of the dodgy developments that have been pushed through ‘planning’, not just those run by Brick by Brick.

    You do have to wonder, just how many of those who you would expect to be enforcing compliance with approved planning documents or building regulation requirements, are actually visiting sites at all at the moment. Seems that currently perhaps, developers are being allowed to ‘legally’ do as they please and leave someone else to try to pick up the pieces (or not) … in due course?

    What a ‘golden opportunity’ (for some) …. to bend even more rules!

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