A straightforward contract awarded to UK demolition contractor J Freeley Ltd to demolish a disused and vandalised building in Rochdale was delayed for more than 12 months; because it was discovered that bats had taken residence.
A specialist bat ecologist put the demolition on hold until a new building was erected on site to provide an alternative home for the roosting bats.
Once that was built, J Freeley Ltd operatives had to painstakingly remove tiles, fascias and bricks by hand from the sheltered accommodation block on Dean Street under the watchful eye of the bat expert, Angela Graham of Bury-based Angela Graham Bat Consultancy Service.
“Initially this was a straightforward demolition contract. The building stood within its own grounds so it would have been quite safe and simple to use remote machine demolition. The contract involved asbestos removal, demolition then landscaping – it could easily have been completed within five weeks,” says managing director John Freeley. “But as bats had been spotted around the building, and they are a protected species, we had to wait more than a year before we could start the project on behalf of our client Rochdale Boroughwide Housing Ltd.”
Angela Graham inspected the accommodation block, and paid a number of visits both in daylight and at night time to establish that bats were indeed roosting within the building. Her report said an alternative roosting building must be erected before any demolition took place. So an open-fronted shed, made of blocks and with cavity walls, complete with a felt-lined slate roof, was built for the bats. Inside, specialist roosting boxes were installed.
Once that was ready for the bats, careful hand demolition of the accommodation block began under the supervision of Angela Graham who was particularly concerned that removal of known roosting features, such as slates and fascias, was tackled with particular care. This necessitated the complete scaffolding of the building before demolition began.
Said John Freeley: “Considerable extra costs were incurred by the client once it became clear that bats were using the building to roost. As awareness of the protected status of bats becomes more widely known, demolition contractors are advising clients to have buildings assessed by specialist bat ecologists at the earliest possible opportunity so contracts are not delayed.
“I believe that in the future, these types of surveys could become as standard as the Type 3 Asbestos Survey is today.”