SHARES in housebuilder Taylor Wimpey rose more than 11 per cent as it announced plans to resume work on its construction sites south of the Border on May 4, although it has not given a start date for its locations in Scotland.

It comes after it ordered its sites, show homes and sales centres to be closed in March as the coronavirus outbreak gathered pace.

The company said it will re-start activity on the majority of its sites in England and Wales using “detailed new site operating protocols developed in compliance with strict social distancing requirements”.

Taylor Wimpey said: “This decision is based on current Government guidance and medical advice and, if this was to tighten further, we would conduct a further review.

“At this stage we do not expect to start work in Scotland, until a return to construction receives the Scottish Government’s support.”

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The move highlights the divergence in approach on lockdown guidance from Holyrood and Westminster, which has prompted concerns in both the construction and engineering sectors.

The company is not expected to start building work until around two weeks after the reopening, it said, “to ensure that the correct behaviours are embedded”.

It does not plan to reopen sales centres, show homes or regional offices at this point. The firm said: “It is likely that the decision to reopen sales centres will be closely linked to a general relaxation of conditions for non-essential retail, and will not happen until we feel able to assure the safety of our employees, subcontractors and customers.”

Taylor Wimpey said trading has “inevitably been impacted” by the virus, but demand has continued, with sales teams continuing remotely.

The firm said its order book increased to £2.67 billion to the week of April 19, up from £2.4bn a year earlier.

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It had strong figures for the start of the year in Scotland, with Taylor Wimpey West Scotland recording, at 17 sites, 126 completions at an average selling price of £230,000 for the first quarter in 2020 against 16 sites with 87 completions at £219,000 on average for the first quarter in 2019.

For East Scotland it reported 11 outlets and 104 completions at an average price of £222,000 for quarter one this year against 13 sites with 110 completions averaging £227,000 for the same period the year before.

Taylor Wimpey said: “Whilst at this stage it is too early to resume guidance, we are encouraged by the resilience and confidence in our order book.

“We have continued to sell remotely during the shutdown period which demonstrates the strong underlying demand for our homes.”

Pete Redfern, Taylor Wimpey chief executive, said: “Our first priority is always the health and safety of our customers, employees, sub-contractors and suppliers.”

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The company said it has been running an in-house manufacturing project with employees which is supplying GP surgeries and care homes with reusable 3D printed face visors.

It is providing 50 care homes across the country with PPE kit including 75,000 masks, 75,000 aprons and 38,000 pairs of gloves.

It has set up a £5 million “pay it forward” subcontractor scheme, to help up to 2,750 vulnerable individuals working for our subcontractors and “has received excellent feedback, making a real difference where it is most needed”.

William Ryder, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said “this is good news”, but added: “To be clear, we don’t think everything is hunky-dory for Taylor Wimpey or the wider sector.

“The risk of a prolonged recession, falling house prices and sales volumes is still heightened, and we know how quickly that combination can demolish profits for housebuilders.”

Unite Scotland said that non-essential construction sites should not open in Scotland yet. It called on the Scottish Government to legislate on safety measures.

David Melhuish, director of the Scottish Property Federation, said: “We do think that, with proper welfare and public health measures, construction could make a significant contribution in terms of restarting our economy.

“It is important to keep in mind that there will be no quick bounce back and we must be prepared for a likely phased return for the construction sector. As Scotland looks at reopening sites, our sector will benefit from experiences and lessons learned in other parts of the UK.”

Shares in Taylor Wimpey rose to 150p at one stage.

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