Priority list provides little clarity


Last Friday the architects of Northern Ireland made a public plea to the Northern Ireland Executive to provide clarity to construction clients on what construction activities are allowed to be undertaken over the next 3 weeks in light of the measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the region. The key question was whether non-essential building sites should be open on Monday or not.

Since then the Department for the Economy has published a list of priority sectors and workplace safety guidance.

Responding to the publication, Joan McCoy, President of the Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA) said, “In every other part of the UK and Ireland there is clarity on what construction activities are currently allowed. The list and guidance provided by the NI Executive does not provide sufficient clarity and is only advisory. The decision on whether to proceed with any or all construction activities has been left with individual companies. This is a question of public policy and should not be left in the hands of individual businesses”

“A list of priority business activities is meaningful if those activities are the only ones permitted. However, the priority sector list for Northern Ireland does not appear to have this status. Therefore, it is unclear what relevance the priority list has.”

“The Minister has said that if a company can work within the social distancing guidelines then it should do so. We understand that this means that all construction activities are allowed during this three week period where social distancing guidelines can be adhered to. However the Minister has not been sufficiently clear on what should happen where social distancing guidelines can not be applied. Is this where the list of priority sectors becomes relevant?”

“We shouldn’t be guessing. Construction clients need answers. Should they expect people back on site or not.”

“It is notable that the construction sector was not directly represented on the Department for Economy’s Engagement Forum. It is a sector with a complex network of businesses that contribute significantly to the economy. It’s a particularly challenging sector to turn off and on and government needs to hear that message.”