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Tories demand action

Stewart resists pressure to let housing sites restart

Building site

Standstill: building sites around Scotland remain inactive (pic: Terry Murden)

Housing Minister, Kevin Stewart, has twice declined to give any indication when construction can start on sites around Scotland.

Graham Simpson, Conservative shadow local government and communities secretary has made repeated attempts to find out why the SNP government is refusing to let the housing construction industry reopen immediately, and when they might.

In the Scottish Parliament yesterday Mr Stewart did not explain if the new phased approach to easing lockdown meant that housing construction could restart.

Again today, in a letter to Mr Simpson, Mr Stewart has stated that “non-essential construction” must remain closed but does not say when the stages of the phased construction restart plan will begin.

Not only is the SNP’s position completely illogical it is extremely frustrating for 6,000 families

– Graham Simpson, Scottish Conservatives

There are currently 6,000 nearly-finished homes that could be completed while observing social distancing measures, according to trade body Homes for Scotland which is also lobbying for this work to restart.

Mr Simpson said: “The Housing Minister has got to pull his finger out. Despite repeated questioning he refuses to tell us when housing construction sites can reopen.

“Construction sites have opened in the rest of the UK, they can easily observe social distancing measures, there is no reason they shouldn’t be open.

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“Not only is the SNP’s position completely illogical it is extremely frustrating for 6,000 families waiting to get into their homes.

“The SNP’s unnecessary delay on reopening these sites is causing many people unacceptable financial hardship.”

The Scottish Government’s route map published yesterday refers to “planning for the construction sector to implement the first two phases in its restart plan”.

Nicola Barclay 2

Nicola Barclay: ‘no reason to delay the start of a phased return’ (pic: Terry Murden)

Nicola Barclay, chief executive of Homes for Scotland, said: “It is obviously good news that we are now seeing steps put in place to relax lockdown restrictions but the construction industry has spent the last nine or so weeks working on a restart plan to enable a safe return to work as soon as it was considered appropriate and which has been agreed with the Scottish Government. 

“There is no reason to delay the start of a phased return beyond next Thursday. It is no exaggeration to say that to wait any longer could prove too late for many businesses and jobs. 

“The biggest question still remains in relation to the 6,000 households currently waiting to move into what are largely complete homes requiring only internal finishing touches that can be easily and safely undertaken.

“There is absolutely no mention of how or when they can be completed.

“With all these customers still stuck in limbo, they have been given no indication of when they can move on with their lives and government needs to urgently provide further clarity on this.

“The route map also states that ‘we are preparing for the safe reopening of the housing market’.  We have already been working on this with other relevant stakeholders such as The Law Society, RICS, UK Finance and Registers of Scotland, and, other than the immediate updating of guidance on moving home that is required, there is nothing now preventing this.”

Comment: Business left frustrated amid the known unknowns

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