Sites shut down as police warn of construction materials being taken and used as weapons by rioters

Building sites in cities across the country were put in lockdown this week following the wave of rioting and disorder that caused huge damage in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Merseyside.

Contractors including Morgan Sindall, Wates and Balfour Beatty have either closed down some sites in response to the violence or shut sites early amid warnings of possible unrest.
In addition the contractors have told staff to secure sites from possible looting by removing plant and materials, in particular materials or tools that may be used by rioters as weapons.

Wates subsidiary Linbrook Services, which is carrying out works to shore up or demolish dangerous structures on behalf of a consortium of London councils’ building control departments, has told operatives to remove all plant and materials that may be vulnerable to looters.

Paul Martin, contract manager for Linbrook, said: “It’s unprecedented the way this has spread. We’re doing what needs to be done by four o’clock and taking plant and materials off-site so they aren’t endangered.”

The news comes as a spokesman for Merseyside Police warned of the dangers of construction materials being used as “offensive weapons”. He said. “We would ask that where possible, people in the construction industry remove them and put them out of reach of people who could be out causing trouble.”

Construction economist Brian Green said the cost of any site closures would depend on how long the site was closed for and whether time could be made up later. “The bigger question is whether contractors have to change their security practice if this type of behaviour becomes widespread in the long term.”

Lawyers this week said that some contracts may not offer any financial protection from the impact of riots.

The Association of British Insurers has estimated the clean-up and repair operation will cost “tens of millions”, much of which will be undertaken by builders under insurance contracts.
Croydon council chief executive Jon Rouse paid tribute to Balfour Beatty subsidiary Mansell and contractor Mears for pledging support.