Environmental Services

A F Howlands Associates' geo-environmental services are aimed at addressing issues arising from planning application related problems.

We provide site specific risk assessments carried out by fully trained and qualified environmental engineers utilising data supplied by industry standard sources.

Our in-house window sampling crew are professionally accredited and can undertake intrusive investigations for a wide range of projects.

Pre-Purchase Evaluations and Summary Site Investigations

A F Howland Associates can undertake pre-purchase reviews to determine the probable scope of works required for the site.  Where site investigations have already been carried out by the vendor AFHA can also review the quality and applicability of the reports and provide advice where necessary.

Summary site investigations of undeveloped sites in order to assess the future costings of proposed works can also be undertaken.

Phase One – Desk study and walkover survey

A F Howland Associates recommend that a Phase One desk study and walkover survey is carried out prior to development of any site.  This consists of a review of existing geological and hydrological mapping, register searches, past editions of Ordnance Survey maps and other information systems, including Local Authority and Environment Agency records, fully supported by any anecdotal evidence.  Potential hazards from ground instability, landfill activities, and historical and contemporaneous potentially contaminative activities, are also recorded.   This is considered to be current best practice and the approach seeks to ensure that aspects of contamination, which are not associated with the present activities, are not overlooked.

A walk-over study would then establish the present character and condition of the area.  It would be used to identify any existing features that can be correlated with past activity.

This information is collated to provide a ‘Preliminary Conceptual Model’.  This establishes the potential for contamination and the risk to a range of ‘targets’ by using the ‘source-pathway-receptor’ principle outlined in Planning Policy Statement 23 (PPS23).  This principle allows a qualitative risk assessment to be carried out for the site and is essential when designing a site specific, Phase Two, intrusive investigation which may be warranted where the site is identified as potentially contaminated by the Phase One investigation.

Current legislation requires Phase One surveys to be completed for many developments as part of the planning process.  The Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) have a duty under Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act of 1990 to identify, investigate and acquire remediation of sites within their area if it is considered potentially contaminated. 

Phase Two – Intrusive Investigation

A Phase Two Investigation is required if potential contamination is identified by the Phase One survey.  This includes a detailed site investigation to determine the nature, extent and degree of contamination, the scope of which must be agreed with the LPA before commencement of works. 

A Phase Two contaminated land survey typically requires invasive/intrusive investigation by way of exploratory holes, sampling of soils, chemical laboratory testing and environmental monitoring.  The Preliminary Conceptual Model formulated by the Phase One can be amended where necessary, and a quantitiatve risk assessment produced. 

Phase Three – Remediation and Validation

If significant levels of contamination are identified by the Phase One and Two investigations, developments do not necessarily stop.  A site specific Remediation Method Statement can be designed, which, subject to LPA approval, can allow development to proceed.  Methods of remedial works can include the following:

  • Excavation and replacement
  • Strategic emplacement of hard cover
  • Utilising ground gas ingress prevention techniques
  • Pump and dispose/treatment of groundwater

Validation of the remediation is subsequently undertaken to ensure that the method statement has been followed, this usually comprises further testing to confirm contamination has been removed.

South Norfolk planning handbook

Mid-suffolk council advice note 1

Flood Risk Assessment

Flood Risk Assessments (FRAs) are sometimes required as part of the planning process where the proposed development site is deemed to be susceptible to flooding by the authorities.  The FRAs are prepared in accordance with Planning Policy Statement 25 “Development and Flood Risk” (PPS25).  It incorporates (i) an assessment of the potential to increase flood risk elsewhere, through the addition of hard surfaces and (ii) the effect of the new development on surface water run-off.

Planning Application Advice – Bespoke Solutions for Discharging Specific Conditions or Objections

Not all contamination problems are easily solved through phased site investigation and risk assessment procedures.  Beskpoke investigations can be designed to address specific conditions or objections to planning applications by the Local Authority.  A F Howland Associates can also act in an advisory capacity to stakeholders for mediation regarding environmental matters with regulators enabling solutions to be formulated in a beneficial manner.

Recently A F Howland Associates secured the removal of specific conditions pertaining to possible contamination of controlled water by proving that contamination was localised to the site with insignificant risk associated with off-site migration.  This enabled continued commercial use of the site and provided A F Howland Associates' client with significant economical benefits.

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