Contaminated land has been hard hit by the economic downturn but the future is looking strong for those who can ride out short term woes.

Edie’s yearly consultancy survey highlighted the sector as one consultants expected to feel the pinch in 2010.

What has been a booming sector in recent years as construction rocketed across the country, could according to edie’s survey, be hard hit in 2010 as it falls from a respectable seventh to more of a struggling ninth for the contaminated land industry.

However, Atkins business head for Land Quality, Natalyn Ala, said the firm’s strategy should help them see out the downturn.

“Atkins has a diverse client portfolio, we’re not reliant primarily on one client type, such as small developers,so perhaps we’re not feeling it as much as our competitors.”

Ms Ala said contaminated land work is ‘not dead’ and ‘still ticking over’ but it’s going to be several years before it returns to pre-recession levels, if it ever does.

Drivers for contaminated land work will remain, such as evolving legislation and guidance and corporations reducing their environmental liabilities and maintaining their environmental reputation .

Ms Ala sees rail industry and brownfield regeneration as providing a work over 2010, but regardless of a political change at next year’s election she expects there to be cuts in public spending.

She said: “There’s always going to be a need to invest in rail, and though we’ve been doing a lot of highways work, for example expanding the M25, currently we are not seeing extensions of similar large schemes.

“A good example is the petroleum industry who will focus on sustainability and applying best practice, so they’ll continue to carry out projects.”

Ms Ala is, however, unsure the survey’s swing away from private sector jobs to public sector work means much. Most of the public sector projects are procured through frameworks, which will remain in place through 2010, saying: “Having a framework in place doesn’t guarantee they’ll go ahead with the work.”

“But, we’ve been fortunate to retain our number one asset, our staff, and their technical skills and capabilities, which will provide a solid foundation for when the economy recovers.”

She concluded: “In 2010 we want to maintain our position, keep our foundations, and look for the opportunities to grow.”

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