Contaminated Land and Construction – review of the year 2005

The huge building programmes and regeneration initiatives around the country, particularly the Sustainable Communities plan, provided the main impetus for contaminated land and remediation activity over the past year.

London took the lead on brownfield development at the start of the year, announcing plans to help first time buyers on to the ladder, which would also have the effect of developing more brownfield land in the capital (see related story).

Not to be outdone, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott announced a push to start a Europe wide framework for building sustainable communities (see related story), a wish he saw granted at the end of the year (see related story) with the so-called Bristol Accord.

Shortly after, the ODPM and English Partnerships launched the National Brownfields Strategy, starting with 12 pilot projects (see related story) and boosted by news that brownfield developments are just as profitable as any other commercial developments (see related story).

The effects of the EU Landfill Directive and the ban on disposal of contaminated soils in most landfills was still felt by many, although some firms were capitalising on this with Soil Hospitals (see related story) and mobile thermal soil cleansing facilities (see related story).

Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett hit back at claims that the Government was not doing enough to remove long-standing barriers to treatment solutions for contaminated soils (see related soils) and the Environment Agency duly cut the red-tape governing mobile plant licences (see related story).

Speeding things up further, the first bespoke liability deal was developed for land remediation projects (see related story) while changes to the way appeals are dealt with in magistrates courts could speed cases up even further (see related story).

The Government proudly announced that brownfield building was at an all-time high (see related story) yet, despite this progress, it was urged to increase its target of building on brownfield land to 80% to boost regeneration (see related story).

The building boom continued as English Partnerships announced it was eyeing up over 700 sites for brownfield redevelopment (see related story) and the Campaign to Protect Rural England warned that the greenbelt would be destroyed in the zeal for new developments (see related story).

London soon got news that the biggest remediation project in Europe would go-ahead with the announcement that it had won the bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games (see related story).

As if this wasn’t enough, London also heard the announcement that the Battersea Power Station development was being regenerated (see related story) although a local group dismissed the statement claiming that the whole project was a scam and would never happen (see related story).

Dangers to the brownfield progress were unveiled later in the year in the government’s consultation on planning laws (see related story) while plans for growth in the South-East were derided as bringing more smog and pollution to the area (see related story).

By September, new figures showed that two-thirds of all polluted land in Britain was undergoing some form of remediation (see related story) and the leading lights in remediation were lauded for their work (see related story).

By November a government task-force warned that the Sustainable Community plans were failing the environment (see related story) and the WWF resigned from their advisory capacity after the government appeared to drop sustainability entirely from their plans ( see related story).

As the year ended, research suggested that the Sustainable Communities plan could be blighted by negative perceptions of “affordable housing” and construction group Wates suggested that a new building initiative would have to be drawn up over the next 30 years or so as this would not sustain longer than that (see related story).

David Hopkins.

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