New Housing Estate and Highway for Northumberland

DBS are supporting a developer client to take forward a new site for housing and a highway at Greensfield, Alnwick, Northumberland.  The site is over 11 hectares in size, and will be redeveloped for 271 houses, with a new highway linking the houses to the centre of Alnwick, with quick links to the A1.

We prepared a Phase 1 Geoenvironmental Desk Study report to support the outline planning application for the development in 2013, planning consent was awarded in May 2014 by Northumberland County Council (NCC), subject to a number of conditions being discharged.  We are currently supporting our client with the next stage of works, we have designed a large ground investigation to obtain information on the ground conditions on site, to obtain information on site chemistry (soil and groundwater) to allow the contaminated land risk assessment to be progressed through another tier of risk management, and to obtain geotechnical information to support foundation design for new properties, the highway, and associated infrastructure, and also to allow pre-start conditions imposed on the development by NCC to be discharged.  The work to develop the highway element of the scheme is being undertaken in conjunction with NCC.

We are currently on site supervising the drilling works, a series of cable percussion boreholes are being sunk across the site, and our geotechnical engineer is also on site supervising a large number of mechanically excavated trial pits.

Following the completion of the works on site, and on receipt of chemical laboratory and geotechnical laboratory analysis results, we will be preparing a comprehensive Phase 2 Geoenvironmental Interpretative Report, to support the discharge of the remaining planning conditions, and to support the site through the next stage of build by the house builder.

The report will include risk assessments for human health and controlled waters, a ground gas risk assessment, revision of the sites initial Conceptual Model, recommendations for suitable bearing capacities for new properties, pavements and roads, a drainage assessment and also an assessment of shrink and swell from existing tree’s and hedgerows on the site.  Also, if required, the report will also include a Remediation Options Appraisal and a remedial strategy.

Upon completion the scheme will provide quality housing for Alnwick, and we look forward to supporting our client through the remaining phases of the project and delivering the discharge of the remaining planning conditions to move the project on to success.



New Industrial Facility

We have just completed a Phase 2 geoenvironmental ground investigation for a new industrial development on Tyne Tunnel Trading Estate for a developer client.

The investigation comprised a series of cable percussion boreholes sunk to 10m bgl to provide information on ground conditions and to allow in situ testing to be undertaken (SPTs), and to enable samples to be collected for laboratory analysis (geotechnical and chemical). In addition, a series of trial pits were excavated across the site using a JCB 3CX Sitemaster, the trial pits were sunk to the maximum reach of the machine (4.5m bgl).

The investigation was designed using a 35m grid non judgmental sampling strategy, a cost effective approach for an initial investigation.

The final data once received back from the testing laboratories will allow foundations for the new units going on the site to be designed, and it will also allow a Phase 2 report to be prepared for the site, inclusive of human health and controlled waters risk assessments (Generic Quantitative Risk Assessment) to support final planning condition discharge for contaminated land.

We are also preparing a similar investigation for a new industrial facility in Darlington, it is good to see confidence returning to the marketplace and seeing clients taking sites forward again to create employment in the region.

FAQ Conceptual Site Models

Conceptual Models, or, Conceptual Site Models, are terms used to reflect how a site is understood at any point in time during the process of site characterisation and evaluation.

They are based on the information obtained to understand any one site as risk assessment is progressed, such as reviewing the sites history to understand how its past use has the potential for current issues to be present on site such as contamination and the presence of underground fuel tanks etc, understanding the regulatory history of the site, and, understanding how the site interacts with its surroundings based on the local geology and hydrogeology.

As more information is obtained for a site, then the Conceptual Model is updated and refined.  The idea is that from having an initial understanding of a site, as more information is obtained the site understanding becomes better informed and becomes better understood, and at the same time risk and uncertainty is reduced.

It is particularly useful for understanding risks to the environment and human health from contaminated land, establishing and documenting a Conceptual Model is intrinsically linked with risk assessment, enabling a site to be de-risked properly so that development can proceed safely.  Getting a Conceptual Model right also helps to minimise project costs, and to prevent delays from unforeseen surprises at the build stage.

Getting the Conceptual Model tight at the outset is key to good risk assessment, as the model becomes more refined as subsequent stages of work are undertaken, with the findings of the initial Conceptual Model directing how subsequent stages of work and resources are targeted.

Conceptual Models can be represented by tables within a report, or, as a “cartoon” style schematic drawing that highlights the main findings in an easy to digest format.

Getting the Conceptual Model right guarantees that your project does not hit problems further down the line, it supports planning application discharge if the site requires planning consent for a change of use, and ultimately it saves clients money.




NEW BS Guidance Issued – BS8574 Management of Geotechnical Data Code of Practice

The British Standards Institute (BSI) has published a new code of practice for the management of geotechnical data, BS8574:2014.  The document lays out the requirements for geotechnical data management throughout the project life-cycle, and provides recommendations on the collection, storage, sharing, archiving and transfer of geotechnical data, and it also outlines other requirements for items such as a data management policy etc.



The Energy Debate – Stadium of Light

DBS recently attended an energy debate  at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light.  The event was established by Square One Law and Brewin Dolphin, and included a host and debating panel, with audience interaction.

There were key speakers from the field, including Chris Huhne, former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Neil Etherington, from Able UK, Jim Cardwell from Northern Powergrid and James Ramsbotham from the North East Chamber of Commerce.

The focus of the debate was how the North East is to achieve a more balanced energy future.

Not surprisingly, it was revealed that the North East is the most energy intensive region due to manufacturing output and exports, but we also generate much energy for other parts of the UK, particularly the south east.

What is also clear is that the region has an abundance of riches with regards to the energy sector, from offshore wind to coal, electric vehicles, energy from waste, carbon capture, coal gassification, biomass, biofuels and solar, and that these industries need to be developed further whilst the future of shale gas is so uncertain (a figure of at least 10 years was mentioned for the first shale exploration to commence in the UK due to the amount of red tape and unknowns to be got through).

We are also well placed to succeed in heavy offshore renewables engineering due to our historical legacy of shipyards and marine engineering.

The debate was a fresh approach to an event, it was a very informative and fresh format and a good networking opportunity.

Phase 1 Desk Study Secure Online Ordering

We have updated our website to include a new secure online ordering and payment system for Phase 1 Desk Study reports.  This has been developed to meet the needs of private developer clients, and smaller organisations, and we are hoping it leads to an even more streamlined experience for our clients, whilst allowing them to pay for the report securely online using PayPal or a credit card.

We have developed an automated proposal system to fit in with this, meaning that we can generate a full email proposal for clients within minutes of receiving a request.

This system will hopefully fit in well with our state of the art Cloud server too, we use the Cloud server for delivering the final report to our clients electronically.

We used to spend a lot of time printing out and binding final reports together, and then sending them out in the post.  We decided to invest in new Cloud technology about two years ago to save time, allowing us to pass cost savings on to clients, and at the same time doing our bit for the environment and helping us to become more sustainable.

Phase 1 Desk Study reports are very intensive on printing, due to the large size of the material in the appendices (environmental data reports from Landmark or Groundsure in particular are very large colour documents).  For the last couple of years we have produced the reports into an identical electronic copy using  ADOBE, and we then send a link to our client that enables them to download a copy of the report from our Cloud server directly to their desk top, or other internet enabled device.

The Cloud server is needed due to the file size of the reports (typically over 30 meg), meaning they cannot be emailed out conventionally.

If you require a Phase 1 report for a new development site, or to support site acquisition and due diligence, follow our new online ordering facility or feel free get in touch if there is anything you need to discuss.

North East Contaminated Land Forum

DBS recently attended the North East Contaminated Land Forum meeting, the topic for this meeting was asbestos in soils.  Paul Nathaniel discussed the recent CIRIA publication (CIRIA C733) “Asbestos in Soil and Made Ground: A Guide to Understanding and Managing Risks”, and there were also presentations from DETS chemical testing laboratory of Consett on asbestos and asbestos containing materials (ACMs), and SIRIUS who discussed a remediation project they worked on where asbestos was the main contaminant of concern.

The NECLF hosts four meetings a year at the Environment Agencies offices in Newcastle upon Tyne, and is attended by a mix of academics, regulators, industry, consultants and anyone else who has an interest in land development.

The latest meeting helped to re-enforce the risks to human health from asbestos in soils, with DETS presenting the startling fact that 70% of samples that go through its lab from brownfield sites test positive for asbestos.

This suggests that any person working to disturb soils on a site that has not yet been characterised, really should assume asbestos is present and take preventative measures to prevent exposure to fibres.  Until testing proves otherwise, a Health & Safety Plan prepared for intrusive works should include for the potential for exposure to ACM.

The main type of asbestos that we find on our sites is chrysotile (commonly referred to as white asbestos), but it is also not uncommon to come across amosite (brown asbestos) and crocidolite (blue asbestos).  The latter two are considered the most hazardous to human health due to their fibre shape which can penetrate and lodge in the lungs, leading to mesothelioma.

DBS Supporting Durham Wildlife Trust

DBS have been appointed by Durham Wildlife Trust to support them with the characterisation of two sites in County Durham.  The sites are being proposed for new wetland schemes, including the creation of new river channels and ponds.  We are really looking forward to working with the Trust and being involved with the excellent work that they do to enhance biodiversity and the appearance of the area within the region.

Landfill Waste to be Converted into Commercial Jet Fuel

The Chartered Institute of Wastes Management have reported news that British Airways (BA) has announced plans to build the world’s first facility to convert landfill waste into jet fuel.  Construction for the GreenSky London fuel facility is due to start in the next 12 months and be completed in 2017, and will be located at the Thames Enterprise Park, in Thurrock, Essex.
Approximately 575,000 tonnes of post-recycled waste, normally destined for landfill or incineration, will instead be converted into 120,000 tonnes of clean burning liquid fuels.  It is hoped that the project will revolutionise the production of sustainable aviation fuel.
Solena has been developing the project and will use its patented high-temperature plasma gasification technology to convert the waste efficiently into synthetic gas.  The gas is then converted into liquid hydrocarbons using third-party technologies, including cleaning and conditioning of the gas, a Velocys Fischer-Tropsch conversion process, hydrocracking and electric power production.

Link to poor health and brownfield land established

CL:AIRE have reported the findings of a new study by Durham University researchers into the health of people living in areas with brownfield land present.

The research found that people living near brownfield sites are significantly more likely to suffer from poor health than those living in areas with little or no brownfield land.  The findings suggest that the regeneration of brownfield land should be considered as a policy priority for Local Authority public health teams.

The research, the first to examine the link between brownfield land and health in England, shows that brownfield sites could be a potentially important and previously overlooked environmental influence on health.

Brownfield land is previously used or derelict land that may have real or perceived contamination problems and that requires intervention to bring it back into productive use.  The Homes and Communities Agency estimates that there is around 62,000 hectares of brownfield land in England alone.

The researchers found that local communities with large amounts of brownfield land in England had poorer health outcomes, including limiting long term illness.

While the hazardous effects of brownfield land with contaminants are well known, researchers suggest that, regardless of contamination, brownfield could have wider negative impacts on the general health of communities. They say further research is needed to find out which health effects play the greatest role.

The full article can be read here: