A NUMBER of workers 'walked off' from two building sites run by Persimmon Homes after a sub-contractor deemed working conditions were 'unsafe'.

Teams of contract workers reportedly downed tools at the Millbeck Grange development in Bowburn and Monkswood in Sacriston after safety concerns were flagged up.

Persimmon Homes, which last month pledged to shut all sites in days, previously said it would only continue with "essential" building work to make partly-built homes safe.

However, The Northern Echo has been told that the developer has "continued as normal" in the building of housing estates across County Durham.

One contract worker, who has asked to remain anonymous, said “nothing had changed” despite Persimmon Homes agreeing to the "orderly shutdown" of its sites.

The Northern Echo: Machinery was left at the site following the walk out Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTMachinery was left at the site following the walk out Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

He said: "Persimmon say they are doing a phased shutdown, but sites are working to full production around the Durham area.

"They are putting people at risk and conning the government into thinking they are shutting down but are instead working through this crisis as normal."

The worker said colleagues refused to continue building across the Bowburn and Sacriston sites beyond Friday, last week.

He said: "We finished what we need to do to make things safe.

"Our firm just told us they're not putting anybody’s safety at risk until the government says it is over, and we parked up the machinery and walked off the site.

"We've been placed on furlough, we've been told we won't return for at least six to eight weeks.

"Bricklayers who are employed by Persimmon themselves are still on site. They are not two metres apart - and there's nothing they can do about it.

"Social distancing is impossible in this line of work. It’s just greed, that’s all it is. They’re still building up to the roof."

The Northern Echo put the claims to the developer and although Persimmon Homes did not directly respond to the claims, the firm provided us with the following statement.

"All Persimmon regional offices will also close, with only a skeleton staff to facilitate the wider workforce working from home.

"Construction sites are commencing an orderly shutdown with only essential work taking place which will be focused on making partly built homes safe and secure and where failure to complete the build could put customers in a vulnerable position.

"Since the outbreak of the virus in the UK, Persimmon has closely followed Public Health England’s guidance including instituting social distancing practices to ensure the safety of its customers, staff, contractors and suppliers throughout this period."