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More brown source please

Brownfieldsites. com aims to be the internet hub for the sector.Covering all aspects of regeneration, the website offers a range of business opportunities for the geotechnical industry.

'I believe that developing brownfield will become an ethical statement, like not wearing fur, 'says Ian Humphreys, founder and business development director of Brownfieldsites. com.

Claimed to be the first internet portal dedicated to redevelopment of brownfield sites across Europe, the website was launched last summer and, after 'six months of tweaking' interest is growing, Humphreys says.

The aim is to provide a one-stop-shop for professionals involved in all aspects of brownfield development, allowing them to collaborate on projects, combine ideas and resources, promote environmentally friendly practice and obtain the tools for 'rapid, transparent and cost-effective assessment of development opportunities' A database of properties, allows developers to view and landowners to advertise sites for sale. There is also a database of companies and services involved in brownfield.

This interaction and the business opportunities it develops for users changes the site from being an information provider to a hub.

Humphreys has been involved in the property market for 20 years.He says his interest stems from his own experience when he wanted to develop a previously used site some years ago.

'It was difficult to get any information on brownfield, ' he recalls.

Humphreys, now an internet entrepreneur, believes that Brownfieldsites. com is the answer.'One of the primary aims was to make brownfield development simpler, 'he says. The website takes users through the entire process, from investigation and remediation through development to the buying and selling of sites.

Information ranges from answers to the basic 'What is a brownfield site?' to funding, legal issues, news and legislation.

The funding section details the sources and types of financial support.While covering Europe, it 'is UK focused' Humphreys explains.

Information is provided on regional development agencies such as English Partnerships and Yorkshire Forward, grant bodies including the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council, the Millennium Commission and lenders that deal specifically with brownfield development.This area is supported by a grant search engine, provided by j4b. co. uk.

The site has links to all UK local authority websites and many across Europe.The intention is to provide drop-down menus for each authority to display their action plans for implementation of the Environmental Protection Act Part IIa.Other links to 'useful'websites are provided.

There are also close links with government, with information on new regulations and documents, says Humphreys.'Initially there was some scepticism but in the last three to five months interest has grown, ' he says.

Legal issues are covered through the website's partner solicitor McGrigor Donald. Users can also search for other solicitors and check their details online. Legal news and features are included, along with hypothetical case studies to take users through the development process.

'Lawyers are now visiting the site to find out about the legal standpoint, which is a pat on the back from industry, ' Humphreys says.

Insurance is also covered. Initially this only featured specialists Certa and AIG, but Humphreys says the range of products is expanding.

For geotechnical firms, the services section offers opportunities. Companies can register for listing on a searchable database through which users can find contractors and consultants for any aspec of brownfield work, including remediation and groundworks.

The main benefit, says Humphreys, is the opportunity for firms to target their audience, to expand, increase awareness and educate, and to find and buy equipment and recruit staff.

Because the database covers such a wide variety of companies from developers, architects, engineering consultants and contractors through to end users it can be a source of collaboration opportunities as well as a shop window.

Future developments, which Humphreys says will be achieved through partnering, will include a more thorough and regularly updated news section and more detailed site specific information, such as ground conditions and bearing capacity, contaminants, their effects and the cost of treatment.

There are also plans for an on-line forum and organised 'chat' events with government officials and industry experts.

'We have provided a workable, feasible and simple solution that the industry needs. It is the industry's tool once industry buys into it, it will develop, ' he says.

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