Blog – Latest Posts (3 columns)

Phase 1 Geoenvironmental Desk Study Walkover in Wooler, Northumberland and Distillery Stop Off

We have been working on the edge of the National Park in Northumberland this week completing a site walkover survey for a new residential scheme in Wooler.  The site walkover is a requirement of a planning compliant Phase 1 Geoenvironmental Desk Study report (and YALPAG guidance which most north east LPAs sign up to) and it helps pull all of the environmental and historical info together to establish the sites initial Conceptual Site Model.  The work report is also prepared…

Petrol Filling Station Investigation and Remediation – Planning Approval for Residential Use

Its been a while since we posted anything due to being rushed off our feet with project work following the recovery from lockdown.We have been working extensively all over the north of England, from Halifax up to the top of Northumberland just in recent weeks.One project that has been interesting and ongoing through this period is the investigation and characterisation of a Petrol Filling Station (PFS) in Sunderland that we have now been working on since 2019.The project has been…

Covid-19 Business Continuity Update

We have been following developments daily on the Covid-19 pandemic and have followed Government guidance to put in place procedures to keep our staff safe and to ensure an uninterrupted service to our clients over the coming days and weeks, and possibly months. To maintain business continuity we have implemented the following: Our staff are remote working via our networked servers and we have a part time presence within our office to minimise the risk of exposure and to maintain…

Ground Engineerings 50th Birthday Celebrations

DBS’ Managing Director Dave Nanson was kindly invited to attend Ground Engineering’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations recently as a guest of the evenings sponsor The Coal Authority. The event took place in the Sky Bar, Grange St Paul’s Hotel, London, opposite the iconic (a word often overused but not in this case) St Pauls Cathedral. The event was an evening of celebration, reminiscing and networking where attendees were the first to receive copies of the special Ground Engineering 50th anniversary supplement.…

We have moved offices and updated our telephone contact number

Due to the needs of the business we have had to expand into larger offices.  Or new address is – DBS Environmental Limited 12 Pickersgill Court Upper Floor Quay West Business Village Sunderland SR5 2AQ We have also updated our telephone system and this is still bedding in. Our new office number is – 0191 5118556 If you have left us a message and we haven’t got back to you within 24 hours it has probably been lost in the…

The Coal Authority Roadshow – Coal Mining Risk Assessment and the new Consultants Report

We attended a road show held by The Coal Authority recently in the grand surroundings of the Woodhorn Museum, Ashington. The purpose of the roadshow/seminar was to introduce the new Consultants style mining report that has been introduced recently by the Coal Authority as part of their commercial work to support land transactions and land redevelopment under the National Planning Policy Framework.

Mine Shaft Investigation for a New Residential Development Site

DBS have been on site this week prospecting for a mine shaft in Northumberland.  We prepared a Coal Mining Risk Assessment (CMRA) report for the site, to support a planning application for a change of use to residential.

The CMRA report identified a potential historical mine shaft feature on the site, as recorded by The Coal Authority.  The shaft had no treatment details available for it.  As a result, it potentially presented ground stability risks to the new development and standard procedure in that instance is to find the shaft, check its capping status, and if it is not capped to current standards, then it needs capping with a structural cap.  The proposed housing layout may also need to be tweaked to accommodate the shaft, by not having property footprints within its potential collapse zone.

Through our research we identified that a farm had been present on the site from the early 1800’s, historical Ordnance Survey plans dating from the early 1800s did not show a mine shaft on site, nor did available historical tenancy agreements mention a mine shaft that went back to the 1500s (that’s good record keeping).

We therefore concluded that, if present, the shaft almost certainly pre-dated the farm meaning it dated to the 1700s, or earlier.

Mine shafts in this part of rural Northumberland where the site is located typically relate to shallow bell pit type arrangements that worked shallow coal outcrops, and also lime.  The coals form part of the Limestone series and are thin, coal was therefore typically worked at outcrop along with Lime to provide soil improver for agriculture (lime kilns are common historical features locally), the shafts were abandoned when groundwater could not be controlled, or ventilation.

The shaft would then be abandoned and another sunk further along the outcrop.

So, the recorded location of the shaft had to be investigated to identify if ground stability risks were present. An application was made to The Coal Authority to obtain a permit to investigate their interests, and on receipt of the permit an intrusive ground investigation of the shaft location was undertaken using an excavator.

A four gas alarm was maintained on site to identify any release of mine gas during the work (explosive and asphyxiating), and the work proceed initially by way of trial trenching through the recorded shaft location with the excavator (the recorded shaft position was set out on site using GPS first), then by scraping a 10m radius around the shaft location to remove surface soils down to natural clay, so that the subsurface could be inspected for anomaly’s that would potentially indicate a shaft.  It is a bit like archaeological digs but on a slightly bigger scale.

We found several subsurface features, including a brick lined infilled chamber that we initially thought was the shaft, but after careful excavation it was found to be a relic surface water drainage chamber only.

The intrusive investigation confirmed the absence of a shaft at its recorded location, or within a 10m radius of it, this is not unusual as old records can always be incorrect.  Our mine shaft completion report has been submitted to the Coal Authority to support their assessment of risk and to support the eventual planning application for a change of use.

Some photos of the work are presented below.


Brexit, The Repeal Bill – Fact Sheet 8 Environmental Protections

The governments Department for Exiting the European Union has issued a Fact Sheet explaining how Environmental Protection will be managed upon leaving the EU.

Fact Sheet 8 – Environmental Protections is available to view on the governments website here:,I0XG,1KIS6D,1VPCP,1

The information confirms that the Repeal Bill will convert the existing body of EU environmental law into UK law, making sure the same protections are in place in the UK and laws still function effectively after the UK leaves the EU.

A comprehensive 25 year Environment Plan will be published  that will chart how the UK will improve our environment as we leave the European Union and take control of our environmental legislation again.

The Government states that it is “committed to be the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than we inherited it.  Leaving the EU means we now have a unique opportunity to design a set of policies to drive environmental improvement with a powerful and permanent impact, tailored to the needs of our country”.

Site Characterisation Near Former Iron Works Site, Northumberland


We are currently working on a new residential development site located in the Northumberland National Park, near Otterburn.

The site is highly rural and is located approximately 30 miles north of Hexham; it formerly comprised of agricultural land only, however, there was some unusual heavy industry (for this remote area) present off site within influencing distance comprising a large iron works with associated features such as coke ovens, railways and mining.

The iron works was short lived, but was impressive in scale.  Local History information confirms the iron works to be “Hareshaw Iron Works“, a Scheduled Ancient Monument.  It was one of a number of widespread sites in the region which grew up to satisfy the rising demand for iron from the 1830s onwards.  It exploited local supplies of coal, iron ore and limestone.  Its early demise was the result of the exhaustion of raw materials and its peripheral location relative to markets compared with rivals on Teesside.  Even its temporary success is rather surprising in view of the poor transport of the times; iron was moved by indifferent roads over considerable distances to Newcastle and Tyneside where amongst other things, iron from the works was used in the construction of the High Level Bridge over the River Tyne. 

The enterprise at Bellingham used two blast furnaces initially, with another coming into production in 1840.  The works closed in 1848 and was ruinous by the 1860s.

Iron ore was obtained from the hills north of Bellingham and from Redesdale Common to the north east.  Coal from the local Hareshaw Head Pit (still working in 1952) was unsuitable for either coking coal, for use in blast furnaces, or for calcining iron ore, which meant that fuel had to be brought from Plashetts Colliery at considerable cost in spite of a mineral line running down the North Tyne valley.  Surviving company records show that the three blast furnaces were blown by a 70 horsepower water wheel and a 120 horsepower steam engine.  In addition, there were 70 coke ovens, 24 roasting kilns, a range of coal stores, and a railway on gears communicating with the stores.  Other structures included offices, a joiner’s shop, a smithy, a large store, stables and a waggon shed while tramways and waggonways communicated with several buildings, the mines and the quarries.

Today, the site of Hareshaw Ironworks has reverted largely to pasture with demolished remains showing as irregular earthworks.  Grass-covered waste heaps on adjacent hillsides are the most visible evidence of the once industrial landscape.  The main blast furnace site is largely occupied by a modern factory.  Still visible structures include the remains of the works dam across the Hareshaw Burn, built in 1838.  It now stands to half its original height of 6m.  The remains were consolidated at the beginning of the 21st century. 

A nearby tramway formation can be followed to the earthworks of the collapsed coke ovens 20m above the floor of the main ironworks site.  The site of the blowing engine house and the water wheel also survive as earthworks.  Other remains include the lower parts of a furnace stack and the foundry yard. 

The site is managed by the Northumberland National Park Authority. 

So, what appeared to be an easy site to take forward for a change of use located within a stunning setting became more intensive, as we had to establish the potential for issues from the off site industry affecting our site.  We undertook a detailed Phase 2 Ground Investigation to establish the nature of the superficial materials at the site, comprising a Trial Pit investigation with a JCB 3CX Sitemaster, and drilling with a cable percussion drilling rig, and also a deeper investigation of the bedrock with a rotary drilling rig to check for the presence of coal/worked coal seams and ironstone seams.

Trial pits were sunk to 4.5m bgl, cable percussion boreholes to 10m bgl, and rotary boreholes to 30m bgl.  Cable percussion boreholes were installed with monitoring wells upon completion, with all other holes backfilled.

Our work is continuing to characterise the site to achieve full planning consent, at present we are half way through an environmental monitoring programme comprising groundwater level monitoring, and ground gas monitoring (methane, carbon dioxide and trace gases).

Some pictures from the last monitoring visit and the site are provided below, as well as some pictures of the High Level Bridge, Newcastle upon Tyne, where the iron works steel was used.  The bridge is also famous for a scene in the movie “Get Carter“, starring Michael Caine and filmed in 1971 around the North East.

A Thousand Reasons to Be Cheerful

DBS have recently passed the thousand project stage; actually over one thousand one hundred projects delivered successfully since we formed in January 2011.

It was a bit of a leap of faith at start up in 2011 as the biggest recession in living memory was still in place, but there were slow green shoots emerging of a recovery and it felt like a good time to try and establish a new business and grow with it, selling our core services based on quality, responsiveness and competitiveness.

We have established ourselves on those principles, and look forward to moving on to deliver more successful projects moving forward with the strong client relationships that we have established.

So, a thousand reasons to be cheerful, even if we do say so ourselves!

North East Sports


DBS are proud sponsors of North East Sport Bayern Under 7s junior football team, currently playing in the Russell Forster mini league. We have some budding Messi’s and Ronaldo’s coming through for sure, its great to see such enthusiasm to play competitively at this young age, and no shortage on the skill front.

The boys won 4-1 last game, the write up from the game can be viewed on North East Sports Facebook page, also repeated here:

North East Sport Bayern played some fantastic football at the weekend to get back to winning ways in the league. James and Sam N were great between the sticks with excellent concentration and distribution of the ball. After going a goal behind Sam J came up with a wonder strike to make it 1-1.

With the game even some great work by Harry, who was brilliant throughout, down the right hand side resulted in Zac scoring through his typical sheer determination to make it 2-1 going in to half time to make it two goals in two games in the league. Grayson had a fantastic game, breaking up play brilliantly and showing for his team mates all the time. Charlie was top notch showing pace and a great touch up front. After swapping the gloves with the energetic Sam N at half time James scored with an unbelievable effort to make it 3-1.

The lads didn’t rest and pushed their opposition in to an own goal in the closing minutes. Each player played to the best of their ability and left everything on the pitch. The opposition manager had no hesitation in choosing Sam J to take home the MOM award after a brilliant captain’s performance.

Well done boys!

Environmental Due Diligence

After a well received Christmas break we are back into project work with a strong order book in 2017, and property transaction support work appears to be an increasing work stream for us with confidence in the region appearing strong since Brexit.

We have just completed Environmental Due Diligence for two large commercial/industrial sites located in the North East of England, one in County Durham, the other in South Tyneside.

Our work is supporting the sale of one of the sites to market; we have prepared a Phase 1 Environmental Liability report for the site that is to be included within the sales pack being prepared by the land agent.  The work included a full historical appraisal of the site going back to “greenfield” conditions, an appraisal the sites environmental setting and its regulatory status, a review of its Environmental Permit status, and an initial environmental audit of all land with the sites ownership boundary and its manufacturing facility.  Following this we have prepared a Phase 1 Environmental Liability report that will provide potential purchasers with an appraisal of the site with regards to potential environmental liabilities and any headline constraints.

The other site is currently being purchased by our client for continued commercial/industrial use; again we have prepared a Phase 1 Environmental Liability report to support acquisition, inclusive of a site walkover survey.  As part of this work potential UXO risk was also evaluated due to the sites location close to Tyne Dock.  Our work provided initial information to our clients legal team to support the acquisition process and to allow them to better quantify any purchase risks with regards to any on site historical risks from contamination.

Both projects are confidential at this stage, so we cannot provide any more specific information with regards to issues on either site, we will provide an update as the work nears completion.

Environmental Due Diligence for property transactions is an essential component of the acquisition, or, divestiture process, and is one that is surprisingly frequently overlooked.

If you are thinking of purchasing land or existing property to increase your portfolio, or, to develop your business, or are thinking of selling and need information to support your sale, please do not hesitate to get in touch for a friendly (and free!) chat around your specific requirements.

New Housing Development – Phase 2 Geoenvironmental Ground Investigation

DBS were on site last week supervising a Phase 2 Geoenvironmental Ground Investigation on a development site proposed for residential housing.

The ground investigation comprised a combination of mechanically excavated trial pits to maximum depths of 4.5m bgl, with cable percussion boreholes to maximum depths of 10m bgl.  DBS designed the investigation to obtain information on ground conditions, site chemistry, and to refine the sites Conceptual Model.  The work was undertaken to provide geotechnical (in situ and laboratory) information to allow foundation solutions to be designed, and environmental samples for chemical analysis.  The work will also support planning condition discharge for the new development with regards to contaminated land and ground stability.

The exploratory holes were set out on a grid system using a hand held GPS pre-programmed with six figure grid references, and each exploratory hole location was checked with a Cable Avoidance Tool (CAT) to confirm the absence of buried services.  Our engineer then supervised the work, logging all arisings to BS/Eurocodes standards.

The excavator was hired in by the client, the drilling company was PB Drilling of Wigan.

Pictures of the GI in full swing are provided below.

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Site Walkover Surveys

Our engineers have been out of the office completing multiple Site Walkover Surveys in recent weeks.  The surveys are completed as part of our Phase 1 Desk Study services, and form an integral part of our Phase 1 Desk Study reports.  The purpose of the survey is to basically see a site in the flesh, to identify potential sources of contamination that could impact land and the surrounding environment, such as Above Ground Storage Tanks (ASTs), Underground Storage Tanks (USTs), pipelines, chemical storage areas, general site use etc.

Our engineers complete a pro-forma questionnaire for each site and take photographs that help to inform our reports and ultimately the sites Conceptual Model.  As well as contamination sources, other relevant details such as off site use, site access, building layouts, evidence of staining/vegetation die back, hummocky ground that could indicate buried wastes, presence of drainage/oil interceptors, site topography etc is checked and recorded.

It is essential that a site walkover survey is completed to inform a Phase 1 Desk Study report, as for obvious reasons the report is not compliant with UK Best Practice and relevant guidance, such as the EA/Defra document “CLR11 Model Procedures for the Management of Land Contamination“.  You cannot risk assess a site properly without seeing it and reconciling it with features identified during the historical review of Ordnance Survey mapping, also completed as part of the Phase 1 reporting process.  Ultimately, a Phase 1 report not completed properly can lead to significant cost and time delays on projects as they move forward through the risk assessment process.

It is also a part of the job our consultants really enjoy doing, as it gets them out of the office and onto site.

We have completed site visits in recent weeks in rural Northumberland in the villages of Lucker and Amble, North Tyneside, Darlington, Ellesmere Port, Weardale and Blackburn.  Some photos from the visits are posted below.

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Wear Rivers Trust

We have just delivered a package of work for the Wear Rivers Trust in County Durham.  Ecological improvement works are planned by the Trust in the Stanley Burn catchment area to create and improve habitats, to improve surface water quality and help fluvial flooding impacts. The work is being progressed under permitted development rights with the Environment Agency.

DBS undertook a detailed Phase 1 Desk Study appraisal of the wider area comprising over 25 hectares of land, focusing on six priority areas for the Trust.  From that work we established the sites initial Conceptual Model (CM), and identified potential risk areas where contamination could be present in the subsurface due to past historical industry, this primarily related to Coal Mining and the presence of a large historical landfill.

Risks to the environment through the mobilisation of historic contamination were considered, as well as risks to human health through the improvements works and end users of the sites.  In total, three areas were identified for further investigation comprising intrusive investigation; we designed a cost effective programme of works to identify if theoretical pollutant linkages identified at desk study stage were significant, or not.

As the improvement works comprised of the shallow excavation of near surface soils only, a ground investigation (GI) comprising Hand Dug Pitting with a thermally insulated (to protect against buried services) double handed shovel and draining tool was designed as a cost effective approach, the maximum target depth of the work was only 1.0m bgl.  Representative samples were taken representing near surface (topsoil and subsoil) and deeper deposits (Glacial Till) for chemical analysis in the laboratory.  Two DBS engineers worked together to investigate the site, the benefit of not using a machine or drilling rig for the work, as well as saving costs, also ensured that the surrounding areas of the nature reserves were not disturbed.

Following the GI, a Phase 2 interpretative Contaminated Land report was prepared for three individual sites amalgamated as one concise report, the report identified that all areas of the site chosen for further work were “suitable for use”, soils testing results were screened against Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and Land Quality Managements Suitable for Use Levels (S4ULs) for Public Open Space (Park) end use.  The report also advised on suitable disposal routes for any arising’s needing to be disposed of as part of the eventual improvement works.

The work provided the Trust with the confidence they needed in advance of large scale excavation works that all risks from contamination were controlled, and that the work could proceed safely.

Some photo’s from the GI are attached.

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Gateshead District Energy Scheme

We are supporting Gateshead Council, Clancy Docwra and d3 Associates with the delivery of the new Gateshead District Heating Scheme.

This is an ambitious project to create a sustainable energy source for civic buildings in Gateshead, and commercial partners who are buying into the scheme.

Phase 1 of the project involves the construction of approximately 3km of pipeline through the centre of Gateshead, across the A167 and down to the southern quayside area of the River Tyne.

The pipeline will connect to various buildings including the Civic Centre, The Baltic, The Sage and The Hilton Hotel.

An energy building to supply the pipeline with hot water is being constructed on Quarryfield Road.

DBS are undertaking an intrusive investigation of the pipeline route to provide information on ground and groundwater conditions, to obtain samples for lab testing to identify suitable disposal routes for all trench arising’s, and to identify potential risks to human health and property receptors from contamination.

Our appointed drilling subcontractor on the scheme is Geocore of Cleveland.

To inform the work, we prepared a detailed “Sampling and Analysis Plan” for agreement between all parties prior to commencement, due to the nature of the pipeline route through the centre of historical Gateshead there are a wide variety of potential pollutant linkages based on past site use and location. Our work built upon various Phase 1 reports prepared by the council to move the project forward.

The work is being undertaken under planning controls, our final risk assessment reports will support the discharge of relevant planning conditions.

Further information on the scheme can be found on Gateshead Councils website using the following link:



CL:AIRE has Published Asbestos in Soil and Construction & Demolition Guidance

CL:AIRE has published the Joint Industry Working Group Asbestos in Soil and Construction & Demolition (C&D) Materials guidance titled “Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012: Interpretation for Managing and Working with Asbestos in Soil and Construction & Demolition materials: Industry Guidance (shortened name CAR-SOILTM)”.

This authoritative document has been prepared with the support of the Health and Safety Executive and presents the definitive explanation of how the legal requirements of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012 or the Regulations) have been interpreted to apply to work with asbestos contaminated soil and construction & demolition materials.

The guidance is underpinned by the fundamental requirements expressed in the Regulations, in relation to the protection of employees from risks related to exposure to asbestos, but is set within a carefully considered framework designed specifically for soil and C&D materials contaminated with asbestos.

In order to be more directly applicable to the risks associated from work on soil and C&D materials contaminated with asbestos, the Regulations have been interpreted in order to allow practical guidance to be produced that is fit for purpose whilst allowing compliance to be demonstrated with the overarching requirements set out in the Regulations.

To  download a copy of the guidance document, go to CL:AIREs website:


Durham Wildlife Trust

We have been supporting Durham Wildlife Trust with the site characterisation of multiple land parcels within the Valley Burn surface water course corridor in County Durham.  The work was undertaken to identify potential constraints from contaminated land with regards to planned ecological improvement works to the burn; the improvement works included aspects such as re-meandering of the burn, the creation of new ponds and general habitat improvement works.

Our work commenced with the production of a bespoke desk study report for each land parcel, and from that work sites were either screened out of the need to do any further work as all risks were understood, or, sites were prioritised for further assessment comprising intrusive ground investigation, or, just a watching brief as the works progressed.

It was important for the Trust to understand if the planned ecological improvement works could lead to contamination pathways being created by disturbing the ground and remobilising historic contamination.  This could result in negative impact on the quality of the burn, and also impact on human health with regards to site redevelopment workers and future site users.  The Trust rely on volunteers for some aspects on projects such as planting new habitats and understanding the sites history prior to getting hands mucky was very important.

It is always surprising what a site history reveals, whilst several sites had always just been greenfield without past development, several areas had suffered significant industrial use historically, including one land parcel comprising part of a former huge iron works tip.  The site had been reclaimed in the 1980s and looking at it now it just appeared to be a natural part of the burn corridor.

Another land parcel within the floor of a steep wooded valley appeared natural but on investigation was found to have over a metre Made Ground within it, luckily this was found to be reworked natural deposits that was entirely free of contamination, its origin was not certain but it was possibly placed years ago to improve boggy ground, as an old drift mine is present in the area (the sandstone boulder in the pic below likely to be from the mine), or, it was possibly just a convenient place for a free/easy tip when houses were being constructed in the local area which was a common practice prior to the stringent environmental regualations that are in force today.

Our reports on the project were used by the Trust to inform their works and decision making, along with the Environment Agency.

Some photos from one of the investigations are provided below for interest, including an old beer bottle removed from deep within the fill.

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Look what we dug up in a trial pit


Whilst out on site trial pitting with an excavator last week we dug a perfectly preserved beer bottle out of the ground from about 1.5m bgl, intact with lid and a trace of beer within it.  The bottle was buried within clay deposits that must have been re-worked at some time in the past.

An initial search on google (and our favourite local pub The Museum Vaults, ex Vaux PH; in the name of research only!) identifies that the bottle probably dates from the late 1800s, early 1900s, but we cannot work out why it has Middlesbrough on it, if anyone has a clue drop us a line!

Here are some pictures of the bottle we dug out of the ground in Spennymoor, and some pictures of the original brewery and drays that were once a regular sight on local roads.

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