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Most developers will be familiar with the common issues which might affect delivery of a scheme. Yet what happens when your site is home to a rare species, a community asset or even buried treasure?

Rockwater Village, a beach resort scheme planned for the Dorset coast, has been in the news recently following the discovery of rare sand lizards nesting in nearby sand dunes, resulting in delays to delivery.  Whilst there may be a multitude of issues which may crop up when planning and delivering a scheme, here we look at some of the weirder and more wonderful factors, from reptiles to relics, which may hold up or ultimately block developments.

Protected species

Some things are as true in the world of development as they are in show business; you should never work with animals. In the UK, it is fairly common to come across species in urban and rural settings, of which bats, badgers, otters, newts and breeding birds or fish (amongst others), have certain protections. The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) lists the species of plants and animals in England which are protected, as well as the habitats in which they can be expected to be present. 

As with the Rockwater Village scheme, the presence of a protected species can delay a scheme if not managed carefully. If a proposed scheme is likely to affect a protected species, developers may need to undertake a detailed survey prior to submission of any planning application. In addition, planning conditions may be imposed to prevent harm or disturbance to a protected species or require mitigation measures to be put in place. Developers may also need to obtain a licence from Natural England or Defra prior to any works going ahead, but the requirements vary depending on any species which may be present. 

Natural England has published a guide to preparing planning applications where there are protected species on or near a proposed development site which is available on the government's website. Nevertheless, specialist advice should always be obtained; please speak to Trowers & Hamlins' planning and environmental team for expert guidance in this area.

Protected areas and buildings

In some cases, the nature of the land which has been earmarked for development may mean it is unsuitable to be developed, especially if it holds a certain significance to the community. 

Town and village greens are areas of open space which have been used by locals to "indulge as of right in lawful sports and pastimes". If an area of land has been used in this way for at least 20 years then an application may be made to register it as a town or village green under the Commons Act 2006. It is estimated that there are 3650 registered greens in England covering around 8150 acres. A town and village green registration may present a hindrance to development and requires specialist advice.

Protection can be afforded to buildings as well as areas of land; a property may be registered with its local authority as an asset of community value (ACV) if it furthers the "social wellbeing or social interests of the local community" or could do so in future. ACVs enjoy increased protection from development and if an ACV falls within the scope of proposed development plans, this can raise a number of issues requiring careful consideration. 

Firstly, it is open to a local planning authority to decide whether an ACV listing should count as a material consideration when determining any planning application for change of use of a property. In addition, there are certain steps to be followed when an ACV is to be sold (or where a lease of more than 25 years with vacant possession is to be granted). A landowner must notify the local authority of its intention to sell the ACV (or grant a lease of the same) which triggers a six-week moratorium period allowing any interested community group to bid for the property. Any bids received during this period will trigger a further moratorium, during which the property may only be sold to a community group. 
While this article touches upon some of the issues that an ACV can cause for a proposed development, we recommend that specific legal advice is sought where appropriate. For specialist advice in this area, please get in touch with Trowers & Hamlins for expert guidance.

Protected sites

The recent uncovering in Northamptonshire of the "most significant early medieval female burial in Britain", including a jewelled necklace now dubbed the "Harpole Treasure", is a relevant example of an unexpected discovery on a building site.  

Leaving aside unexpected archaeological findings, there are certain areas in the UK which have been designated as areas of archaeological importance under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. Designation allows for any necessary investigations of the site to be undertaken before any ground works are commenced, which is intended to prevent any archaeological sites from being damaged or destroyed. 

As rare a finding as the Harpole Treasure was, it is also rare, but not unheard of, for development works to uncover less pleasant discoveries, such as unidentified crime scenes. It is not unknown for human remains to be discovered in the ground during a redevelopment, which in most cases will necessitate an investigation by the police. 

Just as every development has its own unique features, so too does the land on which it is to be built and this can lead to unexpected, and unusual, challenges. Whether it be crickets, cricketers or crypts, or even something more commonplace, please contact Trowers & Hamlins for expert advice on how challenges facing developments can be overcome.