Construction in COVID

Project Background
Originally built over 300 years ago, Holy Trinity Church is one of the standout landmarks in Sunderland and has played an integral part of many lives in the City over the last 3 centuries. At Historic Property Restoration (HPR), we have been entrusted with the restoration of this Grade I listed building. The project will transform the church into a new venue for a wide variety of events, whilst maintaining the rich historic culture associated with the building. Simon Hills, the Project Manager, recognises the importance of the project, stating that “rejuvenating and restoring old iconic buildings such as Holy Trinity Church has become the highlight of my career, it offers the opportunity to breathe new life into buildings which are much more than simply bricks and mortar, they are an integral part of a community. Managing this project allows me to work alongside some of the most talented and specialised craftsmen in their field, to ensure that we deliver a building not only fit for today’s purpose, but one which will be loved & used by the local and wider community for many generations to come.” Alongside Simon, we have our joinery and masonry Site Supervisors Stevie Hardy and Iain Wilmshurst, as well as our highly skilled craftsmen and site operatives. Additionally, we manage a wide range of sub-contractors on site, who are concerned with areas such as the mechanical, electrical and decorating of the building. As Business Development Manager, much of my role consists of working closely with our Site Managers to facilitate the running of our larger projects on a day-to-day basis, through technical support, managing drawings and aiding with the progress reporting of the project.

COVID Working Practices
The construction sector has been actively encouraged to continue operating throughout the various Covid-19 lockdown periods. Our supply chain encompasses numerous key subcontractors, suppliers, manufacturers, importers of specialist materials and equipment, and recycled products. Many of these businesses have suspended all operations whilst they try to establish new operating procedures for a Covid-19 safe environment. Steve Upton, our Commercial Director, added that “the resultant impact on our projects in losing these key suppliers of goods and services for quite extended periods, whist still following the Government guidance to continue operating, has been extremely challenging. With project deadlines, key milestones and complex programmes of work it is only a rapid agility in the marketplace that has allowed us to continue operating in this challenging environment”.  Although, capacity and output has inevitably been affected and project costs have escalated.

Operationally, we have quickly adjusted our working practices in response to the outbreak of COVID-19, to ensure that work on all of our sites has been able to continue. Alongside our regular toolbox talks, we constantly review, update and enforce our working practices to ensure the safety of all of our operatives and subcontractors on our sites and this is no different at Holy Trinity Church. One way we do this, is producing regularly updated cabin registers so that we can allocate and monitor which employees are in which cabins at any given time of day. We have produced specific COVID-19 risk assessments regarding site access, travel, social distancing and sanitising stations; to comply with the latest Government Guidelines. The health and safety of our employees and subcontractors is at the core of every decision we make at HPR. Thus, we have had to pause our regular ‘behind the scenes’ hard hat tours on our sites, which allows us to give members of the public an insight into the work we do on historic landmarks.

For our Holy Trinity Project, we have rented additional cabins to ensure all of our site operatives can adhere to social distancing guidelines on their breaks, although several of our operatives opt to take their breaks in their own vehicles too. One of the biggest challenges for the project has been the regular access to our suppliers. At HPR, we have been fortunate enough to continue our business practices for all but 4 weeks in the last year. However, throughout this period some of our suppliers have been closed or have been unable to consistently meet our demands as they would have been able to under regular circumstances. We have had just two confirmed cases of COVID-19 for this project. Only one of these cases was a direct employee of HPR and both of these were considered isolated events that were not transmitted in a working environment. We believe this is a testimony to our robust approach to Health and Safety at Holy Trinity Church and indeed all of our sites across the country.

Our Health and Safety Policy outlines our commitment to not only ensure that our standards are met, but to also use all practical measures available to us to continuously improve them through feedback, adjustment and change management. All of our sites are subject to a regular audit from an external Health and Safety Advisor and we communicate our policies through inductions for new employees, as well as site signage boards and external courses for our employees. We believe that recent events may actually bring about some positive change going forward, as it has highlighted the importance of maintaining strict hygiene and having an awareness of others around us in the workplace.

Why Is It So Important?
Heritage stands as a source of empowerment and cultural identity for communities, acting as a physical reminder of their past. Holy Trinity Church is no different to the people of Sunderland, connecting individuals with their cultural history. At HPR, we believe that the conservation of our country’s heritage is a crucial service for local communities, and we take great pride in being the contractor entrusted with the conservation of historic landmarks such as Holy Trinity Church. We will always be committed to this work, the regeneration of these historical landmarks can contribute significant economic gains to the surrounding area, through increased tourism and new job opportunities. Our programme has been no different, as it created an opportunity for two local apprentices with us at HPR, through a partnership with The Churches Conservation Trust (maybe a very short quote here from someone at the CCT that describes the importance of the apprenticeships)? One of our apprentices, Tyler Wallace, stated that “the apprenticeship scheme at HPR has been a fantastic opportunity for me to develop my skillset and practical knowledge on site, whilst building on my theoretical understanding at college. The experiences have helped me in every-day life and provide me with a steady income.” Tyler’s story is one that emphasises the importance of our work at Holy Trinity, as he continues to impress.


Historic Property Restoration Ltd
Sandgate Hall
36 Albion Road
North Shields
NE30 2RQ