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The Business Magazine May 2024
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Have You seen a UXO? How an unexploded ordnance can impact a developer

Unexploded WW2 bombs can cause issues for developers
Unexploded WW2 bombs can cause issues for developers
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Unexploded WW2 bombs can cause issues for developers

As development continues to expand into former Ministry of Defence (MoD) sites, brownfield sites and blitz-hit towns and cities, the risk of finding an unexploded bomb can cast somewhat of a shadow over a purchase or new development.

These remnants of war, buried beneath the soil, pose a persistent threat to developers and communities alike. Despite the end of WWII almost 80 years ago, the dangers that an Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) can pose remain very real, as was recently highlighted by the national media.

On 20 February 2024, a homeowner uncovered an unexploded 500kg WWII bomb in the garden of their house on a street in Plymouth, which led to one of the ‘largest peacetime evacuations since WWII’, involving over 10,000 residents.

The incident also involved more than 100 personnel from the Army, Royal Navy and other members of the emergency services, and ended only after the bomb was removed and taken out to sea to be detonated. 

As partner John Dingle and solicitor Edward Williams, in law firm Blandy & Blandy’s award-winning Commercial Property team explain: “The news was of particular interest to our firm. On 10 February 1943, a German Dornier bomber dropped four bombs on Reading, one of which caused serious damage to our Reading offices in Friar Street, neighbouring St Laurence's Church, the adjoining Town Hall, and The People’s Pantry opposite. Of the 41 people who died as a result of the bombing, 29 of those were inside The People’s Pantry, which had been set up to provide meals to those in need during WWII. Frank Seymour, a member of staff at Blandy & Blandy who was working in our offices at the time, also sadly lost his life, and another staff member was injured. 

“On top of that very direct connection, we act for a large number of purchasers of both residential and commercial properties, including a significant number of developers, the latter of whom can ill-afford to make the wrong move when carrying out investigative works or groundworks to a development site that has the potential to be affected by a UXO. The risk can often lead to delays and increased costs, as well as the obvious health and safety concerns. Naturally, we also act for many landowners, who may be similarly affected should a device be found.

“Taking a proactive approach at the initial stages of development can mitigate risk and disruption. Developers in particular should consider submitting pre-exchange UXO searches in high-risk areas, conducting due diligence at an early stage, and ensuring that preliminary and detailed risk assessments are undertaken at the appropriate time, rather than waiting until shovels go into the ground and hoping that all will be well.”

For further information or legal advice, please visit www.blandy.co.uk


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Stephen Emerson is the Managing Editor of The Business Magazine and is responsible for the publication's print publications and online properties including the newly launched Biz News websites in Hampshire and Dorset.

Stephen has been a journalist for 20 years and has worked at local, regional and national publications and led a team which made The Scotsman website one of the fastest growing news sites in the UK with over eight million monthly users.

He has a keen interest in technology, property and corporate finance and telling the stories of the people behind the successful firms in these sectors.

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