Soils, drainage and land classification

There are several reasons why you may need to assess the nature of soil or quality of land on a site. As part of the planning system for developments on greenfield sites in England and Wales, the land must be assessed to determine its quality so that, wherever possible, development avoids the destruction of the best and most versatile land (BMV). The method used for this is the Agricultural Land Classification (ALC) of England and Wales system which, if undertaken early enough during site evaluation, can help developers to avoid lengthy delays and redesigns. RSK company ADAS  actually developed the current England and Wales ALC system in 1988 when it was part of the former Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF).

To protect and sustainably reuse soil resources on site within an effective landscape plan, soil types may also need to be quantified so that developers achieve compliance with Defra’s Construction Code of Practice for the Sustainable Use of Soils on Construction Sites.

Temporary construction sites, such as cross-country pipelines or other compounds, also need to understand the nature of the soil and land drainage systems present, and how these should be handled and restored effectively.

Acknowledging concerns

As the people who researched and wrote many of the principal documents on soil, land drainage and land classification, we are well acquainted with the concerns of our clients. Often the biggest concern is that permanent development may not be permitted on areas found to be BMV land. For other projects, it may be the potential for delays when land owners and tenants refuse developer access if they feel that the soil and drainage conditions of their land have not been adequately assessed.

If soil and land drainage are not handled correctly from the outset, there is an increased risk of project delays through poor site conditions or pollution from soil erosion.

Pre-emptive identification and key relationships

We look to overcome any potential obstacles for our clients. By getting involved in a project at the earliest stages, we can identify BMV land areas where development may not be permitted or can be designed around.

As a former executive agency of MAFF, we have a strong reputation in the farming community that can assist with attaining sought-after land owner and tenant agreements.

Bringing it all together

ADAS offers soil surveys, land drainage design and land classification as part of a full suite of environmental services. We work hard to guarantee a smooth, seamless service that is tailored to client needs. We work all over the UK and have the resources to respond quickly.

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Our Expertise

  • Agricultural land classification surveys

    ADAS actually developed and validated the current Agricultural Land Classification (ALC) of England and Wales revised guidelines for MAFF in 1988. The ALC system classifies land according to its climatic, physical and chemical characteristics long-term limitations for agricultural or horticultural crops. It is used to aid land valuation and land use planning, including as part of a planning system, in England and Wales to prevent the loss of the best and most versatile land.

    ADAS recently undertook the largest soil survey in Wales for more than 30 years, helping to validate the predictive ALC tool developed for the Welsh Government.

  • Soil resource assessments

    A soil resource assessment includes a soil survey and report to assess, quantify and map the differing soil units. This will enable the site soil to be utilised effectively and the societal functions of the soil preserved. This is necessary to comply with Defra’s Construction Code of Practice for the Sustainable Use of Soils on Construction Sites to develop a soil management plan and sustainably reuse the soil in the post-development landscape design.

  • Land restoration consultancy

    For cross-country pipelines, cables or other temporary construction land take, there is usually an obligation to restore a site to its pre-construction condition at the end of the project. Similar requirements often exist for opencast quarry sites. This usually involves restoring an area back to an agricultural or amenity standard, which requires getting the soil and land drainage into a condition that carefully controls the soil and water regime, permits healthy plant growth and allows effective and timely field activities.

    Our consultants work with clients to ensure this is done correctly and cost efficiently by providing advice on soil and land drainage throughout the project. The services usually take the form of soil and aftercare management plans and land drainage surveys and designs.

    ADAS undertook research on former British Coal sites that was fundamental in developing best practice and design standards for restoring good soil and land drainage conditions.

  • Soil and aftercare management plans

    Soil and aftercare management plans are an important part of ensuring soil sustainability after a project has been completed. We work with our clients to undertake soil surveys and develop plans to prevent the loss, contamination or damage of soil resources.

  • Land drainage surveys and designs

    We undertake land drainage surveys and designs to assess the condition of agricultural, horticultural or amenity land before or after temporary construction projects, such as cross-country cable and pipelines. We can advise on soil and land drainage management plans, restoration strategies, drainage design and land drainage law.

    ADAS undertook the research and authored the land drainage design standards and technical guides for the UK when it was part of MAFF. We also wrote the latest land drainage guide for farmers for the Agriculture and Horticultural Development Board in 2015.

  • Expert witness

    We carry out expert witness work for our clients on all matters relating to agricultural and amenity soil, land restoration and land drainage disputes. We provide technical expert witness reports and represent our clients in court and at public hearings. ADAS serves as the independent land drainage expert for the Agricultural Land Tribunal (Wales) and the Agricultural Land and Drainage Tribunal (England).

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