Social housing construction needs to resume quickly, says builder

Townmore construction says Government must not halt essential infrastructure projects

Construction sites would have to adapt to new ways of working, said Mark Cronin, associate director with Townmore. Photograph: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Construction sites would have to adapt to new ways of working, said Mark Cronin, associate director with Townmore. Photograph: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

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A construction firm building social housing and medical device facilities has said essential infrastructure projects, stopped due to coronavirus restrictions, must resume as quickly as possible.

Townmore construction has urged the Government not to impose a lengthy hiatus on social housing, healthcare facilities, schools, roads and utilities projects to deliver “critical infrastructure” and preserve economic stability to the greatest extent possible.

Mark Cronin, associate director with Townmore, said that because the virus was likely to remain in circulation for a considerable time, construction sites would have to adapt to new ways of working, but it was feasible for sites to operate safely.

“In construction, PPE [personal protective equipment] has been worn for years and years, so having to wear gloves, helmets and goggles is commonplace,” he said.

“We are one of the few sectors that have full-time health and safety teams on site each and every day, and these staff would be well able to implement any Covid-19 instructions.” The project managers of each site are also trained in health and safety management he said.

Since the pandemic hit, but before sites were closed, social distancing, staggered break times, changes in the way workers travel to and from the sites, and additional hand-washing facilities had been introduced, he said.

Townmore had been working on 13 sites across the State including building 300 social homes in Dublin, Laois, Tipperary and Cork and medical device “cleanroom” facilities in Wicklow, Dublin and Galway. Mr Cronin said this work, and work on other construction sites, needs to continue.

Procurement work

“We now have the Covid-19 crisis, but the other crises we already had haven’t miraculously gone away. The housing waiting list has not dissipated because of the Covid-19 crisis.”

In addition to the need to keep social and general housing supply on track, and to ensure that other essential projects were not stalled, it was important the economy did not come to a “shuddering halt” he said.

“The onus is on the Government to ensure the economy remains as stable as it can be on the back of this crisis. I think it essential that they stimulate the economy through spending and continue to deliver critical infrastructure including social housing, healthcare facilities, schools, roads and utilities.”

The Government could continue with procurement work for these projects so the sector was ready to “get up and running” with “no bureaucratic delay” once restrictions eased he said.

There was, he said “a lot of apprehension about the economy and when there is apprehension in the private sector, the public sector needs to step up to create confidence in the economy”. In particular budgets for housing and schools needed to be maintained and not diverted to pay coronavirus bills, Mr Cronin said.

He believed the European Central Bank (ECB) would be forthcoming with funds, of which the Government needed to take advantage.

“I am confident that the ECB will likely take exceptional measures to kickstart economies and our Government needs to go with cap in hand and get the best deal they can. We cannot underestimate the importance of confidence and momentum.”