Specialists play key role in brownfield development

Craig Sillars, Managing Director of Churngold Remediation Ltd, identifies short-term concerns over brownfield development and puts the case for identifying specialist remediation contractors capable of addressing the most complex remediation issues.

The Government has introduced a number of pieces of new legislation to act

as drivers for brownfield redevelopment in order to promote urban regeneration

and achieve construction of 60% of new houses on sites that have had a former

use. In the long term, the market for the services of specialist remediation

contractors is almost certain to expand. However, at the time of writing (December

2001) the rapid implementation of the Landfill Directive, before the effect

on brownfield regeneration has been properly addressed, and, in particular,

the associated definition of what is “waste”, may have a short detrimental

effect on the remediation market.

The bans on certain wastes is such that pre-treatment of soils prior to deposit

in a hazardous waste landfill may be required. However, due to the prohibitive

cost of disposal to these landfills (costs of around £100/t have been

mentioned) pre-treatment in order to allow disposal to a non-hazardous landfill

is also likely to increase. Those sites with planning constraints that require

removal of material off site could find remediation costs escalate. However,

clearly on site forms of remediation should come more to the fore in order to

reduce disposal of materials to landfill. Either way, the need for specialist

contractors will become a necessity. However, the latest hurdle is the Environment

Agency position on the definition of waste as defined in its document Guidance

on the Application of Waste Management Licensing to Remediation.

This classifies contaminated soil arisings as “controlled waste”

that is based on its designation as “directive Waste”. The contaminants

themselves can be considered waste as they have been “abandoned or control

of them has been lost” and since “the soil is not discrete from the

contaminants, that too will be Waste.” Of great concern is that the EA

has also indicated that even uncontaminated arisings from service runs will

be classified as waste.

The reasoning behind this is that the excavations were carried out to install

services and not to obtain materials for use elsewhere on the site. As such

they would normally be discarded, ie they are waste.

Developers raised these concerns at the recent annual CIRIA conference on contaminated

land, however their fears regarding this definition were only exacerbated. The

upshot is that, no matter what type of development site you have, the handling

and re-use of materials from site will be deemed to be a waste activity and

will require a Waste Management Licence unless an exemption can be obtained.


What is becoming clearer, however, is that the issue of redevelopment of brownfield

land is becoming an ever more complex one, requiring skills to be pulled together

from a number of organisations forming the development team.

This team generally comprises the architect, planners and the environmental

consultants and, generally at a later stage, a main contractor. The team in

general does not include the specialist remediation contractor. However, it

is more frequently being left to the specialist contractor during the tender

process to come up with the remediation design. The time available frequently

prevents the best design being provided, and gaining approval for the best design,

should it stray from the perceived design that was proposed to the Environment

Agency, may even prevent its implementation due to other constraints, usually


Andrew Smith, Chief Secretary, pointed out at the recent Achieving Better Value

in Construction Conference, that “specialist contractors are the crucial

factor in driving forward the agenda for construction. As such, specialist contractors

should be involved in the supply chain at the earliest possible opportunity

and, preferably, prior to design stage.”

Hopefully, one solution on the horizon is the new PPC2000 Partnering Contract

that Sir John Egan stated was “A blow for freedom.” The stated objectives

are of reduced costs, reduced defects and accidents, and increased predictability,

productivity and profit, which offer rewards that we all want to share.

Given that the majority of any development costs overrun due to unforeseen

ground conditions it would appear obvious that great benefits should be gained

by including the specialist remediation contractor, who will be dealing with

these problems as part of the partnership. Contrary to what some developers

may think, we believe that this method of procurement will provide the best

value solution every time.

‘One Stop Shop’

What a lot of people do not realise is that specialists, such as Churngold Remediation

Ltd, can offer clients a full package of enabling works so that, rather than

tacking in four or five specialists, all the design work and implementation

of that design can be carried out by one contractor.

For example, a recent project bid incorporated initial demolition and asbestos

removal, followed by bulk excavation, bioremediation, stabilisation, construction

of bentonite cut-off walls and groundwater treatment. The groundwater treatment

itself involved a combination of pump and treat, chemical oxidation and in situ

bioremediation, as well as looking into other more complex techniques.

The package even allowed for the piling and ground improvement works on site.

Thus the specialist contractor provides an important part of the construction

team, but only adds one layer to the supply chain.

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