PREPARING TO GET OFF THE BLOCKSTACKLE ECOLOGICAL HURDLES NOW!

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JAMES B LLOYD, HERPETOSURE MANAGING DIRECTOR, DISCUSSES USING THE DOWNTURN WINDOW TO DEAL WITH ECOLOGICAL ISSUES. THIS WILL STAND DEVELOPERS IN GOOD STEAD WHEN THE MARKET TURNS UP.

Your construction project suddenly put on hold? Site gates padlocked for the foreseeable? Most of us have simply no choice just now. It is a depressing scene we are witnessing across the whole country as the recession starts to bite.

But history teaches us that the better times always return so don’t just walk away and forget your project site. It can be a very costly inaction. There are a number of things you can do now to hit the ground running when demand picks up again in a couple of years.

Ecological issues are seldom at the top of mind in the construction industry. They can, and usually are, expensive to tackle if ignored. For example, the Great crested newt and knotweed factors are endured by all sectors of the industry and evoke visions of lengthy project delays, mounting expenditure and wide-spread developer frustration.

The window created by the fallowing of land parcels is the ideal time to remove newts from sites and get it clear of Japanese knotweed and other invasive plant species – dealing with ecological and invasive weed issues now is always financially beneficial.

Leaving knotweed to grow behind locked gates can be extremely expensive. It can grow up to 10cm a day and over just two or three years can spread exponentially. Its rhizome root systems can also grow down more than two metres and getting rid of the stuff can either take two or more years of careful spraying or the more instant but terrifyingly expensive options of ‘dig and dump’ or soil screening.

Species like Great crested newts and slow worms, which are protected by law can usually only be trapped and removed to somewhere safe during the warmer months of the year. Developers who are faced with these protected species issues are boxed in. One major site we have been a part of faced a build start delay of twelve months if we had not been able to clear the ground of newts in a very short window of just a week. Failure to do so would have cost millions to the contractor and penalties from the client for late delivery.

Specialist contractors are an extremely useful source of practical advice here, and can ensure a site free from ecological issues or invasive weeds remains so. Often public access onto a site, fly tipping, vehicle tracks, shrub and vegetation growth is enough to provide potential habitats for species like badgers and birds. It may even encourage invasive weeds to develop – so site vegetation management is a vital consideration.

Involving these contractors in the preparation of land parcels for sale is also extremely financially beneficial. On many sites even a minimal investment in dealing with these issues will prove very worthwhile. It reduces price negotiation, increases sale value and smoothes land sale.

MY MESSAGE FOR CONTRACTORS ABOUT TO MOTHBALL SITESBEFORE DOING SO JUST MAKE SURE YOU HAVE CONSIDERED THE ECOLOGICAL IMPACTS ON YOUR LAND AND THE STEPS THAT WILL ENABLE YOU TO GET RIGHT BACK TO WORK THERE WHEN THE ECONOMIC INDICATORS TURN GREEN.