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Hackney Council urged to halt work on Hoxton’s £384m Britannia leisure centre development during coronavirus pandemic

PUBLISHED: 18:03 08 April 2020 | UPDATED: 18:03 08 April 2020

Neighbours claim workers at the Britannia Leisure Centre project are not keeping 2m apart during the coronavirus pandemic - although developer Morgan Sindall Construction denies this is the case. Picture: Robin Hawkes

Neighbours claim workers at the Britannia Leisure Centre project are not keeping 2m apart during the coronavirus pandemic - although developer Morgan Sindall Construction denies this is the case. Picture: Robin Hawkes

Robin Hawkes

Hackney Council has come under pressure to halt work on the £384million Britannia Leisure Centre redevelopment, amid claims workers on the site are not sticking to social distancing rules during the coronavirus pandemic.

Neighbours claim workers at the Britannia Leisure Centre project are not keeping 2m apart during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Robin HawkesNeighbours claim workers at the Britannia Leisure Centre project are not keeping 2m apart during the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Robin Hawkes

The council and contractor Morgan Sindall maintain that work is continuing “in line with government guidance”.

However some authorities have taken the decision to suspend building to combat the spread of Covid-19, and TfL has stopped all its works including Crossrail.

Many of the workers on the council site in Hoxton - where a new secondary school, leisure centre and 481 flats are being built - will have travelled there on public transport.

Despite warnings from London mayor Sadiq Khan that public transport should only be used by key workers, even this week overcrowded tube carriages have made social distancing impossible.

Neighbours claim workers at the Britannia Leisure Centre project are not keeping 2m apart during the coronavirus pandemic - although developer Morgan Sindall Construction denies this is the case. Picture: Robin HawkesNeighbours claim workers at the Britannia Leisure Centre project are not keeping 2m apart during the coronavirus pandemic - although developer Morgan Sindall Construction denies this is the case. Picture: Robin Hawkes

Robin Hawkes, whose home overlooks the building site, has written to the council’s cabinet members and officers urging them to halt work. He has been taking pictures of the workers on site who appear to be in close proximity, including one picture where seven workers are congregating at the front gates.

A council spokesperson said this was “one specific instance where new starters had arrived on site, and incorrectly gathered for their first shift before entering the site”. 
Mr Hawkes questioned whether the works were really essential. 
“I know the council is up against it in the timetable they’ve set for themselves to complete construction, but its hard to understand a borough like Hackney that places a lot of store in caring for residents, to be putting these workers in a position every day where the likelihood of the spread is increased, compared to if it shut down,” he said.

“The truth is, it is impossible for building workers on a building site to observe social distancing if they are doing their job.”

Morgan Sindall, which has not confirmed how many workers are on site, has put into place measures like one-way routes around the project, and separate staircases for going and up and down to ensure workers do not cross paths.

The firm has also trebled the number of site cleaners on site, and set limits on the number of people that can use the site canteen and toilets at any one time. Now, no more than one person can sit at each table in the canteen.

A spokesperson from Morgan Sindall Construction said: “The safety and wellbeing of our team and community is imperative and we have strengthened precautionary measures to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our workforce and neighbours, including minimising the numbers of individuals on site at any one time.

“Physical distancing protocols are also in place for meetings, briefings, communal areas and site welfare facilities.

“Trained traffic marshals are now in place at every site entrance and exit point to ensure safe distancing is maintained at key pedestrian crossing points around the perimeter of the site.”

A council spokesperson said they are also committed to “ensuring workers and residents are safe”.

“We are continuing to follow the government’s guidance on construction sites, and work is continuing where it safe to do so and social distancing measures can be firmly enforced,” they said.

“We will continue to review this closely with our contractors and make decisions on a case-by-case basis, subject to further government advice.”


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