Contaminated land: A modern mid-life crisis

Health, Safety and Wellbeing September 17, 2019

RSK geosciences director Neil Hutchinson featured in Environment Analyst’s ‘Contaminated Land: A modern mid-life crisis’ report. Neil was interviewed for the insight report earlier this year and is extensively quoted and frequently mentions RSK.

“Government austerity, Brexit uncertainty, industry self-regulation and a shrinking pot of polluted sites have placed considerable strains on the UK’s maturing contaminated land sector. But there are still opportunities to be found…” Environment Analyst assistance editor Ross Griffiths begins.

Despite contaminated land rarely making headline news, the public’s blindness to contamination issues and 60% of environmental consultancies believing growth in contaminated site assessment/remediation will be negative, static or only slight (Environment Analyst, Market Trends 2018), RSK’s contaminated land team has had a busy and successful year: “We have had the busiest twelve months ever, but we have noticed a slowdown from the smaller developers,” says Neil. “However, the larger-scale development and land promotion companies we work with take a longer-term view with at least a ten-year land chain. They take a much longer, more measured approach. They look at Brexit and think ‘well, that is happening now, but in five years’ time demand for housing will still be there.’”

The report suggests that a large proportion of contaminated land work today is “to release land for house building on post-industrial brownfield sites”. However, it is the clean-up of contaminated sites relating to major infrastructure projects that brings in the big bucks, and this is where most of the larger multidisciplinary firms are focussing their attention.

“The prevalence of major infrastructure schemes – and a procurement trend to merge engineering and technical consultancy services into major frameworks – has led to a blurring of the boundaries of traditional service provision. Infrastructure delivery, remediation, demolition, and site surveys are not only conjoining but they are becoming highly commoditised,” Griffiths continues. “The desire to offer a full suite of services from consulting to delivery and/or contracting – and an ambition to become the UK’s number-one environmental services firm – has seen RSK acquiring heavily to add contaminated land capabilities across the spectrum over the last three years, notable purchases including CAN Geotechnical, Central Alliance, Copeland Wedge Associates and RAW Group.”

Continuing, the report considers why, in many cases, “contaminated land investigations have fallen by the wayside”. The report goes on to consider the self-regulatory initiatives, including the Land Forum’s National Quality Mark Scheme, and the CL:AIRE definition of the waste code of practice, and current contaminated land ‘hot topic’ per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

The report concludes by looking at the global markets for contaminated land, which appears to have a more promising outlook: “EA’s latest Global EC Market Trends through the first half of this year found global contaminated land prospects could be on the rise, with perceived prospects now at their peak for a decade with a projected compound annual growth rate of 6.9% for the next five years.”

Subscribers can read the report in full on Environment Analyst’s website.