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Contaminated land surveys are undertaken to ensure that a site or property does not present an unacceptable risk to the health of occupiers and other users, or to environmental features such as water bodies. This is typically required where there is reason to believe the site may have been impacted by contamination from historical industrial processes or waste disposal.
To ensure land being developed is suitable for use, preliminary assessment of risks from contamination is required under planning policy (the NPPF) and Local Authority Building Control Regulations. In the case of property transactions, a contaminated land survey is often required by buyers, sellers, lenders or their advisers to ensure that the property is not impaired by unforeseen environmental liabilities.
Many local authorities have their own specific requirements, which can take the form of very wordy planning conditions which can result in excessive work being requested. Our contaminated land consultants have undertaken survey reports in all areas of the UK, so we understand the requirements of the planning authorities and can ensure planning conditions are discharged as efficiently as possible.
In undertaking land contamination surveys for our clients, Adeptus adopts the phased approach set out in national guidance.
A phase 1 contamination survey is a necessary first step in any contaminated land assessment, as it forms the basis for all further decisions made. The majority of sites surveyed by Adeptus present negligible risk to human health or the environment, and undertaking a desk study of environmental, geological and Ordnance Survey data, regulatory records and other information, can allow this to be demonstrated without incurring the cost of mobilising equipment to site, sampling and laboratory analysis. A site walkover survey (site reconnaissance) may also be undertaken at this stage to allow visual inspection of the site and surrounding area. This allows the desk study information to be confirmed on site, and assessment of related items such as structures, tanks, pipework, drains, ground cover, vegetation and any adjacent land uses.
Key outputs from the phase 1 assessment are a conceptual site model (CSM) and preliminary risk assessment. These should identify all sources, pathways and receptors present, and determine whether they present potentially significant contaminant linkages.
Phase 2 investigation is undertaken to gather numerical data on potential soil contamination or groundwater contamination, and to enable the degree of risk to be assessed quantitatively. Soil and/or water samples are taken from various locations and depths, based on the findings of the phase 1 desk study and potentially significant risks identified. The samples then undergo testing for a range of contaminants of concern, as also determined in the phase 1 report. This allows a quantitative measure of risk to be produced by comparing the results obtained with either published screening criteria (generic quantitative risk assessment - GQRA), or site specific assessment criteria (detailed quantitative risk assessment - GQRA).
The scope and nature of phase 2 surveys and contamination testing can vary significantly based on the site, proposed use and contaminant linkages requiring investigation. For many such sites, a simple soil contamination survey consisting of two to three small samples will be sufficient to discharge planning conditions. For larger and more complicated sites, an investigation may require machine excavated trial pits, the drilling of boreholes, or the installation of monitoring wells for gas or groundwater monitoring.
You can be assured that when engaging the professional advice of leading consultant such as Adeptus, these works will be specified to provide the required outcome.
The UK's rich industrial heritage leaves us with a legacy of brownfield sites, many of which operated at a time when the consequences of simply discarding waste on or under the ground were not even considered, let alone understood. Today, the risks from exposure to chemicals are well understood, and the storage, use and disposal of chemicals are all closely regulated. Following a number of high profile cases of illness caused by ground contamination over the last 20 years, legislation has been enacted to ensure all proposed development sites are properly assessed, with environmental survey reports produced by qualified and competent persons.
The various parties involved in commercial property transactions are aware of the large and unforeseen financial liabilities that can come with industrial properties. For these reasons, phase 1 and 2 land contamination surveys are a routine item in the due diligence process around corporate and real estate transactions.