The foot-and-mouth crisis is halting progress on building and engineering projects across the country, according to the Institution of Civil Engineers.
The ICE claims that water company Seven Trent has suffered 150 project disruptions, and access restrictions are leaving employers, consultants and contractors with huge cost problems.

Many ICE members have also reported that they are facing financial strain as the spread of the disease continues.

A spokesperson from Seven Trent confirmed that there was disruption on its sites. She said: "A large proportion of our capital building and engineering work has been affected.

"Where work is taking place on foot-and-mouth-hit farmland, whether it is constructing new sewers or laying pipes, it has been disrupted. This is because if the work runs through these farms then we have to respect farmers wishes not to continue working." The ICE held emergency talks last week with the Association of Consulting Engineers and the Civil Engineers Contractors Association to discuss the plight of their members.

The ICE's contract for use between employers and contractors does not make any allowance for the outbreak of an epidemic such as foot and mouth.

It is essential that all the affected parties keep talking to each other

Mike Casbourne, ICE

Guidance issued by the ICE to parties using its contracts calls on them to work together to find the best solution.

Mike Casbourne, chief executive of the ICE, said: "In the present unfortunate and unforeseen crisis, financial strains will be imposed upon contractors, consultants and employers, just like farmers.

"We have discussed the circumstances with the ACE and CECA and in the spirit of best practice, it is essential that all the affected parties keep talking to each other to ensure that the best possible solution is reached." Small and agricultural builders have been hit hard by the foot-and-mouth outbreak across the country.