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Hagan Homes downs tools at six sites to halt spread of coronavirus

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Hagan Homes’ development in south Belfast

Hagan Homes’ development in south Belfast

Hagan Homes’ development in south Belfast

Hagan Homes’ development in south Belfast

Hagan Homes’ development in south Belfast

Hagan Homes’ development in south Belfast

Hagan Homes’ development in south Belfast

One of Northern Ireland's biggest housebuilders has said it has now shut six out of its 10 sites in a bid to protect sub-contractors from the spread of coronavirus.

Hagan Homes said it was now only working on four sites where houses were due to be handed over in the next few weeks.

Yesterday a body representing Northern Ireland's construction industry said all non-essential building work should stop.

The Construction Employers Federation (CEF) spoke after the Prime Minister urged people not to leave their homes, with travel to work only to take place where essential.

But Housing Minister Robert Jenrick later said work on sites could continue, with social distancing.

However, the CEF said: "Non-essential construction work should cease.

"In those instances where our construction workers are supporting health, emergency services and those works essential to the safety of the public, the safety of workers is paramount and all guidance must be followed stringently.

"At the same time we recognise the immediate impact on families of the many thousands of self-employed workers and so we would reiterate our calls on the Government to implement a similar financial support package to that already announced for salaried workers."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson placed the UK on lockdown on Monday, ordering people to only leave their homes for "very limited purposes", banning public gatherings of more than two people, and ordering the closure of non-essential shops.

James Hagan, chairman and founder of Hagan Homes, said its 11 direct employees were now working from home. But he added: "In relation to the 10 building sites across Northern Ireland where we have started on site, six are now closed.

"We take our responsibility to protect our colleagues seriously which means we are now only working on those houses that need to be handed over in the next three weeks.

"All other work is on hold as the health and welfare of all our sub-contractors are paramount."

Mr Hagan said the firm was in daily contact with contractors to ensure they were aware of government guidelines on social distancing, with building sites allowed to stay open where they were outdoors.

"If they cannot keep the social distancing rules then the site must close immediately," he said.

"Hagan Homes is very aware though that this is a fast-evolving situation and some contractors are experiencing challenges when it comes to sourcing the materials that they need to progress with the phase of construction that they are in.

"We are committed to helping our existing and potential new homebuyers as much as possible during this difficult time.

"Future handovers may be delayed as a result of the current unprecedented challenges facing us, however, the safety and welfare of all our citizens must now take priority.

"We are also mindful that there may be key workers amongst our customers and we will make every endeavour to hand over future houses on time, but we must ensure that we do this in a safe and compliant manner."

Meanwhile, UK housebuilder Taylor Wimpey said yesterday that it has closed its construction sites, show homes and sale sites due to coronavirus.

The company added: "In the interest of customer and employee safety, we have taken the decision to close all of our show homes, sales centres and construction sites for all work except that needed to make the sites safe and secure."

But earlier yesterday, rival Redrow said its sites remained open with "strict precautions in place".

Construction workers told PA that, although they are scared of catching the virus and taking it home to their families, they are reporting for work because otherwise they will not get paid and risk losing their jobs.

Meanwhile, the 100 firms on the UK's main stock index added more more than £113bn to their combined value in the FTSE 100's best ever day of trading.

It marked the first major rise since the coronavirus outbreak as US politicians prepared to pass what could be a game-changing stimulus package.

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