Contaminated Land and Environmental Due Diligence

DBS is currently assisting two industrial clients in their due diligence process for the purchase of new sites for their operations.

It is heartening to be involved with new regeneration and the picking up of the property market, following the events of recent years and the recession.  It is also good to see industrial operations expanding with the job creation that brings.

Contaminated land / environmental Due Diligence is an essential process to follow during any land transaction, but even more so when former industrial land is to be acquired, due to the potential high risks of acquiring sites with a liability present in the form of land and / or water contamination.

Very often sites are acquired with the intention of subsequently applying for planning consent for a change of use for the site.  The due diligence process for site acquisition, if done correctly, can also be used to provide the information required to obtain planning consent for a change of use, and it makes financial sense to obtain all of the information required to satisfy the acquisition risks, and the subsequent planning requirements in one go.

At DBS we support clients through this process, and we aim to provide clients with a very commercial service in that we de-risk sites fully, focusing on key constraints, in order to help clients save costs whilst also allowing them to fully understand risk and achieve planning, should site acquisition proceed.

All environmental due diligence assessments should commence with a thorough desk based review of the sites regulatory, historical and environmental setting, and an initial Conceptual Model of the site understanding established.  By getting a very tight Conceptual Model established at the desk based stage, it allows the subsequent stages of risk management / mitigation to be focused, to target actual risks so that an intrusive investigation can be designed economically in order to obtain actual information on site conditions, and ultimately prevent exposure to long terms acquisition risks.

Once the contaminated land evaluation process has completed, it is important that the work also gives meaningful information for clients so that they can understand risk.  DBS’ Due Diligence reports contain Liability Statements that clients understand, we cover Statutory Liability (if the site is acquired could it be subsequently be determined as contaminated land by the LPA under Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990), Third Party Liability (is there a potential for the site to impact negatively off site), and we also provide a statement on Constraints to Development (if purchased, are there features on site that could prevent or prove costly for the site to be changed for its proposed new use).

De-risking sites commercially is a very skilled process, we only use highly experienced and chartered professionals for our due diligence work, and we have an enviable track record in helping clients to acquire sites projects and achieve planning, helping their projects to succeed.

We can also assist industrial clients with site divestiture, we can provide the information to give them confidence that they are not leaving behind contaminated land, human health risk or environmental risks that could come back to haunt them in years time.  The work we do also provides reports that can help with the sale of the site, to give investors confidence and to help minimise their acquisition costs.

We look forward to the contaminated land and due diligence portfolio of work we undertake increasing as we move away from recession in the UK.

Coal Mining Risk Assessment Approval

DBS have had a Coal Mining Risk Assessment report accepted by North Tyneside Council for a new residential housing development on a large 27 hectare brownfield site.  The development proposals also included provision of a new school, along with highways and infrastructure.

The risk assessment report was prepared to support a planning application for a change of use at the site, the site itself had suffered extensive impact from coal mining historically.

Several large coal seams had been worked at shallow depth beneath areas of the site, parts of the site had been opencasted and backfilled, and five mine entries (shafts) were located on the site, or within close proximity to the site boundary.

As such, the site was classified as being within a Coal Authority “High Risk” area for mining, and DBS was appointed by our developer client to prepare a Coal Mining Risk Assessment for the site.  The risk assessment report prepared by DBS was undertaken to the requirements of the recent Coal Authority guidance document, “Risk Based Approach to Development Management, Resources for Developers (2013)”.

The aim and scope of the report was to identify all potential risks and constraints to new surface development at the site from mining activities, and to identify to the Local Planning Authority (LPA) how risks were going to be controlled with a mitigation strategy.

The overall aim of the report was to demonstrate that the site could be redeveloped safely, without ground stability risks, to meet the requirement of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) with regard to development on unstable land.

As part of our assessment we reviewed the sites history using published Ordnance Survey mapping, the sites history was reviewed back to the mid 1800’s to identify surface activity (opencasting and mine entries), we reviewed published BGS geological Plans to determine the sites geology,  we reviewed existing historical ground investigation information available for the site to identify recorded and probable shallow mining risks, we also ordered and reviewed a current Coal Mining report from the Coal Authority, and we obtained information from the LPA on the presence and location of mine entries, and also capping details where information was available.

After reviewing the available information for the site, we identified and assessed site specific coal mining risks, and prepared a mitigation strategy identifying how the site could be redeveloped safely.  Risk mitigation was confirmed for shallow mining, mine entries, mine gas emissions (methane and carbon dioxide) and unstable ground from opencasting.

DBS also prepared a Phase 1 Geoenvironemntal Desk Study for the site, also to support the planning application for a change of use, and to commence the risk assessment process for the site with regards to contaminated land and in ground geotechnical risks.

If you have a development site that is going through planning and would like to know if it is in a High Risk Area for mining, or, you would like a friendly informal chat around mining risks and/or a free cost proposal for a mining risk assessment report, then contact us on 0800 772 0053 (free to call from landlines) / 0191 5018052, or drop us a line at