Digital maps help unlock bomb risks

A new layer of historical mapping has been made available which could help consultants assess whether development sites could contain unexploded bombs.

Landmark Information Group has digitised thousands of maps and historical aerial photographs taken by the RAF to allow consultants to cross reference the information and pinpoint likely sites.

It is estimated that as many as 10% of the bombs dropped during the Second World War did not explode, creating the risk of explosion and contamination of the soil from chemicals in the bombs.

Landmark’s announcement follows the discovery earlier this month of a 1,000kg unexploded bomb in East London as a digger cleared a site being prepared for the 2012 Olympics.

More than 21,000 sites in cities such as London, Plymouth and Manchester are believed to contain unexploded bombs.

David Mole, managing director of Landmark Environment, said: “This is all valuable intelligence for property developers who may face an increased risk of detonating one of the thousands of unexploded bombs in the country.

“We expect to see an increasing demand for robust desk study reports on topics such as this.”

The company said the information could also be used to assess the risk of contamination from bombs that did explode.

A spokesperson told edie: “Where an area has been blown up, the ground may be filled with potential contaminants from infilled material that has filled the crater left by the bomb.”

But the company admits that assessing whether a site will contain a bomb by cross referencing maps and historical photos is not easy.

The spokesperson said: “It can be quite difficult to tell, however bombs were dropped in sequence. Where the bombs have exploded, you can expect to see a cleared area.

“In between these cleared areas there may be areas which are untouched. It is these where the risk of finding unexploded ordinance is at its highest.”

Kate Martin

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie