Chris Loaring of Argyll Environmental discusses the value of thorough, expert environmental risk assessment prior to site acquisition
Here at Argyll Environmental, we pride ourselves on delivering expert environmental due diligence and risk assessment services for land and property.
We were recently appointed to provide environmental due diligence in support of the proposed acquisition of a large caravan park in Devon. Working on behalf of a major law firm, our role as environmental advisor was to support the end customer with their investment.
The caravan park in question is located adjacent to a former copper mine. Owing to the potential for ground instability and potential contamination risks, as a first step in due diligence a SiteSolutions Combined report was produced. This detailed screening report features a review of all available historic and environmental data from the UK’s most comprehensive environmental data library held by Landmark Information Group.
The report identified that the east of the site was used for historical landfilling and the site had the potential for ground stability risks, which can be associated with historical mining sites.
As highlighted in the new Technical Guidance note by the Coal Authority, the risk of mining and subsidence should be a vital consideration at development sites for planners, surveyors and developers.
In order to further inform the identified risks of mining-related subsidence and collapse from historic mineral extraction that were identified in our original report, we sourced specialist mining reports for the site. This was undertaken to confirm the potential for unrecorded coal workings, the competence and current condition of the geology overlaying the coal workings, and the potential effects of groundwater.
To provide a cost-effective and timely service, as a next step our team undertook a Phase 1 Environmental Assessment to clarify the environmental risk at the site in the context of the proposed development. Our Phase 1 Environmental Assessments feature a review of the historical development of the site, and a study of the environmental sensitivity of the site, including the local geological, hydrological and hydrogeological setting.
Regulatory consultation with statutory bodies is also included to consult on potential environmental liability. In addition, a full site walkover by one of our PIEMA-accredited environmental consultants is included as part of the assessment to identify any signs of contamination issues at the site, which may not be evident from a desktop review.
In this instance, the report we provided allowed the client to gain an informative and fast opinion on the overall value of the land and any potential liabilities or risks associated with the acquisition and, of course, the site’s suitability for future redevelopment.
The Phase 1 Environmental Assessment provides a robust qualitative risk assessment giving an executive summary that clearly identifies key issues and recommendations for any further work. This avoids any potential for additional costs (where applicable) at the outset, to avoid surprises mid-project.
In light of the site’s industrial legacy and operational history, including mining and landfilling, it was recommended the progression of an intrusive ground investigation (Phase 2 Environmental Report) to more accurately quantify the ground conditions and ultimately protect the client’s investment.
The targeted Phase 2 Environmental Report featured soil, groundwater and ground gas testing to quantify identified risks from historic mining and landfill operations across the site. This was designed to provide maximum information and insight for minimal overall cost, so the client could make a fully informed decision.
This overall investigation empowered the client to progress with the investment, fully aware of the likely ground conditions beneath the Site and how these could impact both their future redevelopment plans, and the overall value of the site.
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Please note: this is a commercial profile.