Small builders have been given some hope of avoiding closure by the easing of the foot-and-mouth epidemic, but outbreaks are still disabling projects.
A spokesperson for the Carlisle branch of the Federation of Master Builders said many of its members were still facing ruin.

He said: "There are still many local businesses that have money tied up in big individual projects that are affected and it is leaving them in a dire situation." Keith Allen, the Cumbrian builder and farmer featured on the cover of Building last week, has began work on two sites that have been reopened, enabling him to keep his staff employed.

Allen has also been told that his flock of sheep are clear of foot-and-mouth disease and will not have to be slaughtered.

He said: "We are beginning to get building work but things are still very slow and we will be struggling for a while yet." Other small building companies are facing ruin because building projects have ground to a halt.

John Bebb holds a maintenance contract for farm buildings outside Shrewsbury but cannot gain access to them. His wife Jacky said: "We employ a team of four. We did have more but they've left because there just wasn't the work because of the foot-and-mouth outbreak restricting our access.

"We normally turn over around £10,000 worth of work in a month, but last month it was only £1200 – our situation is absolutely terrible."