Eleanor Deeley, Deputy Managing Director of the Deeley Group, on how construction is adapting to a limited return to site working
There is no doubt that parts of the economy are beginning to show signs of life – but the tap is only being turned on very slowly.
I was on one of many recent video calls when someone said that as we end lockdown it will be a little like when you have had your boiler repaired. When you turn on tap it splutters as the pipes refill and takes a while for the flow to be resumed.
On the construction side of the Deeley Group, the announcement of lockdown and social distancing meant our tap was tightly turned off and we closed our 11 sites.
I fully appreciate that it is very difficult for Government to be clear and concise bearing in mind the myriad of unprecented measures they are bringing in at the moment but there was, at best, uncertainty as to what was essential working.
Also, the advice that work would continue also came with a heavy hint that there was little understanding as to how a site works and that did cause concern in the industry.
Slowly the sector got to grips with exactly how we could continue working to a level while strictly adhering to the social distancing rules. That has, inevitably, meant big changes in how we work.
For example, signing in is now by text rather than an electronic fingerprint system; canteens are closed; site times, break times and lunch times are staggered; we can only have 10-30 per cent of the number of people on site to allow for social distancing.
There have been struggles getting materials – especially plasterboard – and many of the builders’ merchants were closed until very recently. That is all easing and the supply of UK-produced goods is getting much better, but there will be times when we are held up by the absence of products such as lifts or air-conditioning units, which have to be imported.
Interestingly, in a world of sub-contractors, there has been a total regard for the health and wellbeing of staff, which has been refreshing to witness particularly when, at the same time, there were images from major construction projects where workers paying no attention to the guidance.
Sub-contractors are only coming back to sites where they are confident that social distancing can be maintained and, when it can’t, there is suitable PPE used by all.
But no-one should be under the impression that this means we are back to normal. Social distancing is likely to remain in place for many months to come and this means that the rate of construction is going to remain low because of the limited numbers on site.
As ever, industry is going to have to find a way to overcome the hurdle. We might need
to extend working hours as we have the longer evenings arriving, almost operating a two-shift system to maximise the number of working hours on site.
I think an increase in weekend working is almost inevitable, but that will not only allow us to maintain progress as much as possible but it will also allow sub-contractors to earn, which will very welcome after the last two months.
Equally inevitable will be increased costs because efficient sequencing of a build will not be possible given the restrictions in place and the equipment shortages.
There are also other more trivial, but still important, consequences. Spirit on a site is always important but with people working alone we simply cannot interact in the same way.
There is going to be part of our morale that is absent as we miss the joke that we don’t hear, and the catch up over a coffee during a break.
But that is a small price to pay.
A cycle event has been able to raise £9,415 for charity even though it was unable to go ahead this month.
More than 700 riders were set to head out onto the Coventry and Warwickshire roads for the Starley Sportive on Sunday, April 26 – after the event was originally postponed due to Storm Dennis in February.
COVID-19 forced organisers Coventry Road Club, Coventry-based construction and development firm the Deeley Group and Coventry City Council to cancel the rescheduled date, although refunds were offered many generous riders have chosen to still donate their entry fees to charity.
The funds raised will be donated to primarily to support Zoe’s Place Baby Hospice – but some money will also be donated to Leamington-based Young People First.
Businesses who had already committed to supporting the event have also fulfilled their donations, with Eagledale, Wallsmart, Murray & Co, RM Contractors and TBL Fire Protection all contributing to the fundraising total.
A virtual ride took place via RGT cycling on the day the event was planned for, with all funds raised donated to support Zoe’s Place Baby Hospice through the coronavirus pandemic.
Edward Hudson, Business Development Manager at the Deeley Group, said: “We were very disappointed to have to cancel the Starley Sportive this year but the response we received from cyclists who had already signed up has been fantastic.
“We would also like to thank all of our other partners who had pledged to support the event in 2020.
“The Starley Sportive is always a not-for-profit event and we ensure that as much of the funds raised as possible reaches our charities.
“We’re looking forward to seeing everyone at our 2021 event which will of course be taking place in Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture.”
This year the Starley Sportive teamed up with Coventry-based Etch & Pin ahead of the ride to create special pin badges to commemorate the event. They are awarding 100 of these badges in a free prize draw to riders who chose to donate their entry fees.
Ian Court, of Coventry Road Club, added: “Charities have been forced to cancel many of their fundraising events in recent months.
“So, we would like thank everyone who has donated their entry fees to support these charities in very testing times.”
Eleanor Deeley, Deputy Managing Director of the Deeley Group, casts her eye over how the planning system is adjusting to life in lockdown
At a time when people have been panic buying shopping for toilet rolls, cutting their own hair and congregating for karaoke parties during the lockdown, it is refreshing – and indeed rare – to highlight the planning structure as a model of good sense.
Despite the tragic events which have crippled countries across the globe and robbed families of loved ones, other aspects of life have to try to operate as normal or at least adapt to the unique circumstances in which we find ourselves.
I think everyone has been pleasantly surprised, for example, how quickly people have adjusted to working from home and meeting virtually.
It would have been all too easy for development and construction to grind to a total halt. While many of the aspects of the profession have been rendered impossible through restrictions, the Government flexing planning regulations has allowed a great deal of work to continue when otherwise it would have been forced to cease.
The change has allowed more planning matters to be agreed under delegated powers which means that there continues to be a flow of applications being processed.
As with all aspects of business during the lockdown period, precise preparation and clear communication are vital in ensuring officers have as full a picture as possible allowing them to be comfortable they are able to make the right decisions.
The changes to planning regulations have also given council’s certain freedoms to decide the best ways to operate within guidelines.
Planning meetings can, for example, be held remotely with members logging in over the internet or on the telephone. The location of a meeting can now be defined digitally such as a web address or video conference call rather than a physical place.
As long as committee members, officers and applicants can hear and be heard then a meeting can go ahead. Contributions from the members of the public if they are allowed to speak can be registered in advantage.
I wonder how many times committees would like to have had a “mute facility” at their disposal in real meetings!
Public consultations are, by their very nature, far harder to carry out during lockdown yet the Local Government Association Planning Advisory Service has urged local authorities to press on employing social media, interactive maps and online information, and utilising virtual groups through channels such as Facebook.
These are still early days relative to public consultations and there are more formal and structured elements to the process which may not be able to be conducted remotely, and there is talk of guidance being flexed to make that possible should this situation continue.
There are elements which have proved trickier to overcome. Some smaller councils do not have it within their constitution to make decisions without a physical meeting while traffic counts – a key factor in planning applications and consents – are impossible to measure when we are restricted to essential journeys only.
Again, if lockdown continues then the system will have to adapt and research has shown that more than three quarters of councillors are behind the process continuing virtually until the crisis is behind us.
What this dreadful time has shown is that, when the pressure is on and needs must, the planning system, which at times seems massively inflexible, can be shaped and moulded to mutual benefit.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that spirit of understanding and mutual working continued long after this horrible period is over?
Leading housing provider Stonewater has been working with construction and development firm Deeley Group and Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council to develop much-needed affordable housing as part of the town’s wider regeneration project.
Feather Lane is a brand-new development of 27 homes built in partnership with The Deeley Group, which has been at the forefront of regeneration in Bermuda over several decades – aiming to boost economic growth across the town.
The scheme, which has benefited from Homes England grant funding as a result of Stonewater’s strategic partnership with Guinness, consists of eight two-bedroom and eleven three-bedroom affordable rent homes, as well as four two-bedroom and four three-bedroom shared ownership homes.
The average home in Nuneaton is currently priced at around £176,284, which is more than seven times the typical local wage. However, shared ownership is a part-buy part-rent scheme offering an affordable route to home ownership for first time buyers and local people struggling to get a foot on the property ladder.
Matt Crucefix, Director of Development (West) at Stonewater, said: “We are absolutely clear on our vision of giving everyone the opportunity to have a place that they can call home at Stonewater and we are always striving to find opportunities to make that vision a reality. It has been a pleasure working with The Deeley Group to transform this site and not only meet local housing needs, but support Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council with improving the local economy.”
Peter Deeley, managing director at the Deeley Group, said: “We are thrilled to have worked in partnership with Stonewater and Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council to bring forward much needed affordable housing for the local community.
“Bermuda is an area which is very close to our hearts as a company as we have been working on the regeneration of this part of Nuneaton for decades and this is another welcome addition.”
Clare Golby, Councillor for Arbury at Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council, said: “I was invited to the official opening of the housing scheme at Feather Lane and was really impressed with what has been delivered. Stonewater’s development is well thought-out, and the homes are all spacious and lovely. Most importantly, the residents we spoke to were very happy with their new homes. This development compliments the earlier phases of the Feather Lane estate too, so overall I was really pleased.”
A multi-million pound development of commercial units has been completed in Warwick – and it is already fully let or sold.
All 15 of the new units created on the 30,000 sq ft site off Plato Close in Tachbrook Park have been snapped up by businesses and investors.
The £6 million development, known as T1300, was completed by Coventry-based Deeley Construction on behalf of property development and investment company AC Lloyd Commercial, which is also based nearby on Tachbrook Park.
Businesses from a wide range of industries are already moving in to the units – including new companies looking to be part of the Silicon Spa community in the region.
The units are the next stage in AC Lloyd Commercial’s development of the 132-acre Tachbrook Park site, which it has owned since the 1980s.
There is ample parking across the site, which also includes 30 charge points for electric vehicles – which is double the amount of plug-in points required in Warwick District Council guidelines.
Mark Edwards, managing director at AC Lloyd Commercial, said: “We have seen high demand for these units ever since they hit the market and before practical completion nearly all of the units had been let or sold.
“The final unit has now been taken up and it’s clear there is a need for commercial space of this type in Warwick.
“The development has gone well. We have a great working relationship with Deeley Construction and look forward to working with them on another project in the near future.
“We have added in a number of car charge points which will help to future-proof the site as we move further towards electric vehicles being the norm.
“Businesses are already moving into the new units and joining the already thriving business community at Tachbrook Park.”
The development marks the fourth time Deeley Construction and AC Lloyd have worked together on a project – with other recent works including a £9 million development at Kites Park in Princes Risborough in 2018.
Martin Gallagher, managing director of Deeley Construction, said: “We have worked in partnership with AC Lloyd Commercial throughout this development to deliver it on-time and to a high-standard.
“For all the units to already have been let or sold proves there is a true demand for commercial space of this type across Coventry and Warwickshire.
“It is great to see businesses taking up space in the new units and we look forward to working with AC Lloyd Commercial again soon.”
PICTURE CAPTION: Martin Gallagher from Deeley Construction (left) with Mark Edwards from AC Lloyd Commercial at the development in Warwick
Deeley Construction has been appointed by the University of Worcester as one of six building firms on its renewed medium construction related works and refurbishment framework.
The framework, an approved list of building contractors the University has chosen to work with, will run for the next 3 to 4 years and covers construction projects of various values, from simple refurbishments to larger redevelopment projects.
Martin Gallagher, Managing Director of Deeley Construction, said: “We are delighted to be included on this framework.
“Deeley Construction has an excellent track record of working in partnership with universities and other educational establishments on a range of projects so we are looking forward to delivering for the University of Worcester on this framework.”
A university spokesperson said: “The University of Worcester is delighted to include Deeley Construction on our framework, who will help us to deliver the University’s exciting projects for the future. We are always keen, where possible, to work with businesses in the region and have chosen companies whose excellence and expertise will be invaluable.”