Contaminated Land & Construction – Review of the Year 2007

The Australian headache over what to do with its nuclear waste took another twist in 2007 - with an aboriginal clan offering up tribal lands as a dumping ground, in return for cash compensation and education facilities.

The big news on the home front was the introduction of Home Information Packs (HIPs), including energy ratings for houses akin to those for domestic appliances.

The introduction of the packs was delayed as the authorities struggled to find people prepared to train in carrying out the surveys,

Most home buyers also claimed they would consider the green credentials of a potential property before snapping it up.

In Brussels, Germany pushed for the introduction of energy ratings on homes across Europe.

When it came to land remediation, the Olympic park in London’s East End continued to grab the headlines, setting new standards for clean-up operations and the re-use of construction waste from demolished buildings.

Reports that radioactive waste had been dumped in a Scottish landfill – albeit years ago – added fuel to concerns over the safety of nuclear as an energy option.

Government also announced the UK was running out of storage space for its nuclear waste.

Back in February, Government published planning guidance on flood-proofing developments – a little late, perhaps, for residents of Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire hit by the summer storms later in the year.

The Environment Agency published a report telling the construction industry it faced ruin if it failed to adapt to the pressures of climate change and arguing it would need to be in the vanguard of efforts to prepare for the worst.

Scientific body the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution said it was astonished at the lack of a comprehensive urban environmental policy encompassing planning, energy and water use and transport.

A grassroots campaign shot up in defence of the nation’s gardens – which it claimed were under threat from developers looking to capitalise on high land prices and incentives to build on brownfield sites.

On the international stage, Poland provided a master class in how not to build a road, with plans to put a motorway through one of Europe’s few remaining pristine forests eventually leading to EU intervention.

Forward thinking construction companies looked at options of how to reduce energy and waste consumption – introducing site waste management plans or looking at off-site prefabrication to cut waste.

An analysis of China’s farmland found 10% was heavily contaminated with pollutants.

Increasing the tax rate on empty buildings was heralded as an incentive to renovate and rebuild, leading to huge energy savings over demolition and reconstruction.

The USA continued to plough megabucks into its superfund – a rolling land remediation initiative.

UK Government’s white paper on planning proposed measures to streamline applications for large-scale renewable energy projects and nuclear power stations.

And extensive analysis of British soil by the Environment Agency showed that it was getting cleaner as time went by and anti-pollution regulations had an impact.

Plans for flagship eco-towns received a mixed response from pundits, welcomed by some and dismissed as ineffective or irrelevant by others.

Sam Bond

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