Watch out for these chilling construction nightmares

Posted: October 31, 2019

While Halloween is a time of gruesome tales and spooky surprises, nightmare scenarios can jump out at unsuspecting workers at any time of year.

Brooding bats

Stumbling across a battalion of bats roosting on a site can scare even the most hardened developer.

These flying beasties are found not only in rural developments, but also in urban areas, especially when converting outbuildings.

If they are suspected to be on site, the starting point is to commission a survey to confirm their presence and how the development might affect them. Mitigation steps must be agreed to protect their habitat (normally as part of the planning process).

A bat activity survey is likely to be a planning requirement and has to be carried out during the summer period of May to September. The need to preserve the bat roosts may require some minor design changes. Often it is simply a case of incorporating bat boxes to replace lost roosts.

However, it is possible that these nocturnal mammals might dictate the positioning of the buildings so that their new roost is as close as possible to their existing location.

The nightmare scenario is finding bats only after development work has started. This is likely to result in having to stop work until an ecologist has surveyed the site and come up with appropriate mitigation proposals.

Lurking newts

Newts have stopped a number of major projects in their tracks. The notion of small amphibians bringing large developments to a halt makes for great headlines, amusing to everyone other than the developer.

If a site includes a pond or other water body where newts could be present, then the planning authority is likely to require a newt survey.

Timing is an issue again, as the survey can only be carried out between March and June – the months of the newt breeding season, when the animals are at their most active.

It is illegal to catch newts without a licence, to cause harm or disturb their habitat. A mitigation statement will be needed to guide protection of their habitat or their safe relocation.

This can include further, more detailed surveys, installation of special fencing to safely protect the newts from the adjoining development, or the creation of a new pond for the newts to be moved to.

Contractors may have to be supervised to ensure these little creatures are safe while the works continue. An ecologist will no doubt be required.

Invasive monsters

Like something from your worst nightmares, Japanese knotweed is an invasive plant, famous for its speed of growth – up to 20 cm per day – and its potential for structural damage.

There is no hiding from this monster, not least because it is unlikely any lender will offer a mortgage on an infested property without its thorough extermination.

A high-strength weedkiller is required, which needs to be reapplied over three or four seasons. The process must follow the statutory requirements in terms of its removal.

The alternative is a ‘dig and dump’ strategy, whereby the offending plant is dug up and removed by licensed contractors. This can be a far more expensive undertaking, but one that may be required if the timing of the development means you just need the horror to be over.

Haunting finds

Ancient or ‘scheduled’ monuments are historic buildings or sites, either above or below ground, that are deemed of national importance. They are included in a list or schedule maintained by Historic England, acting on behalf of the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport.

A haunting find for any unsuspecting developer, their protected status should be revealed as part of the initial due-diligence process.

Consent from the secretary of state will be needed before any development can take place involving an ancient monument.

It is a criminal offence to disturb a scheduled site without official approval. If a site includes a scheduled monument, any work is likely to require careful monitoring by an archaeologist.

Any of the above horrors can turn a promising project into the stuff of nightmares.

Watch out for these chilling construction nightmares image