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Ground Board/BGS merger offers single voice

Sainsbury aims to boost membership on Indian tour; ICE In Action

A WORKING party is to be formed to set the terms of a merger between the ICE's Ground Board and the British Geotechnical Society.

Recent talks at Great George Street have smoothed the path for the creation of a single geotechnical body that would end 'an immense amount of duplication'. The merged body would retain the independence of the 50-year-old BGS, while at the same time be accountable to the ICE Council.

Embracing freedom and shackles was a tricky hurdle that had contributed to the breakdown of the last merger talks in 1996, said an ICE source. Imperial College's Professor John Burland, who published a mission document last September, said: 'The nub of the issue is how to combine the proper autonomy with allegiance to the ICE. But at our recent meeting, the prevailing atmosphere was that this could be achieved to the satisfaction of both sides.'

Vision for a single body for geotechnics and ground engineering within the ICE, states: 'The present arrangements are not conducive to achieving a strengthening of geotechnical engineering.'

The report contends that a new body would have a more powerful voice with the Government and client community, and within the profession. It would have a unified voice on best practice and a substantial budget.

Members of the BGS who will eventually vote on a merger would be wooed by the promise that they would benefit from 'being within a major professional institution which has a national and regional structure'.

In return, it was hoped that the ICE would bring all professionals in the geotechnical field closer to the Institution.

The working group was expected to be endorsed by council today (Thursday).

PRESIDENT ROGER Sainsbury flies out this weekend to the Indian subcontinent to begin a 'workmanlike' three week tour.

Sainsbury believes the potential for building up membership in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh is much greater than at the time of the last presidential visit four years ago.

He said: 'Government policy in India has led to an opening up of its economy in recent years. The economy is growing and demand for new infrastructure is high. It's an appropriate time to be visiting.'

He felt the need to develop industry standards had never been greater, and promised that the ICE would lend its expertise.

'ICE Membership in India (about 100) is not compatible with the size of the country. We are determined to see that grow. The potential is great because of our tradition here.

'After the continual work of John Whitwell and his team, I'm sure the good will is there,' he said.

18 Jan: Deputy secretary of international affairs, John Whitwell, and vice president of international affairs, Brian Crossley, flew to Moscow to work on course accreditation.

25 Jan: ICE president Roger Sainsbury met the High Commissioner for Bangladesh and the Minister for Economics of the Indian High Commission.

27 Jan: Sainsbury lunched with Pakistan's High Commissioner and the Deputy High Commissioner and Trade Commissioner for Sri Lanka.

26 Jan: Whitwell, Crossley and director of professional development Richard Larcombe explored new membership opportunities in Poland.

28 Jan: Sainsbury spoke to engineering students at Cambridge University on the theme of 'Civil engineering experiences'.

A conference on 'strategic and policy issues arising from last year's Easter floods' will be held at ICE on 17 March. Elliot Morley, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food which is responsible for flood policy, will give a keynote address. Contact Liane Otten on (0171) 665 2313 or e-mail:

ICE responded to consultation papers on reform of vehicle excise duty, specification for trenchless installation of highway drainage and service ducts, and the Audit Commission's report on local transport and travel.

AME briefing sheets on local transport plans, road user and workplace parking charges, interim report of the Urban Task Force, Planning Policy Guidance 15 (conservation areas). For more information contact Robert Huxford, on: uk

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