A LEADING Cork developer believes “now is the right time” for construction work across the country to restart.
Michael O’Flynn, managing director of O’Flynn Construction, said that if social housing has been deemed safe to be built, private housing can be dealt with similarly.
His company was in the process of delivering around 200 houses in Cork and Dublin at the time construction was deemed non-essential, and he had to lay-off around 500 people who were either directly employed or subcontracting at a number of sites around the country.
However, with an updated announcement expected tomorrow on restrictions, Mr O’Flynn said he sees no reason why construction couldn’t restart with adequate procedures in place.
“We have all embraced the restrictions for five weeks now.
"I absolutely understand that the health issue has to come first, but I think part of our industry can restart in a safe way,” he said.
Mr O’Flynn outlined a number of steps the industry has taken, including the development of new operating procedures and manuals being circulated, in preparation for a safe return to work.
“I’m very hopeful, especially given that social housing sites have been back for the last week now.
"Private housing is the same method of construction as social housing, so if someone could form a conclusion that social housing is safe, then private housing must be safe, but only on the basis that there’s total adherence to the HSE guidelines,” Mr O’Flynn told The Echo.
“I think housing is a special case. I think other forms of construction may be as well, like roads.
"In a lot of countries housing never closed. I appreciate the decision here was to do that, and for all the right reasons,” he said.
“Having said that, everything has to be considered, and I think now is the time to consider easing back, but only if it can be done safely.
“We will have to do it differently. We'll have to accept a different way of working for what may be a very long time, I absolutely understand that, and productivity might not be the same as it used to be,” he added.
With all of the company’s projects on hold, Mr O’Flynn said that a number of customers who have purchased houses and made arrangements based on a pre-Covid timeframe will be waiting for longer than anticipated.
“Clearly we’re off site for five weeks, so any commitments we have made are going to be impacted by at least five weeks and probably more,” he said.
Mr O’Flynn highlighted the difficulty of restarting the industry as quickly as it closed, citing potential issue sourcing materials due to be imported from other countries as one of the issues the industry faces.
“I think now is the right time to go back, but I do think it’s going to be a slower restart than we would like. The impact on all our schemes in the greater Cork and greater Dublin areas is quite significant, and understandably so given the crisis that we’re in.”