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talking point

A contaminated land specialists registration scheme has been developed.

Hugh Mallett describes how to become an accredited Specialist in Land Condition and the advantages it should bring.

In 1998 the Government set up the Urban Task Force to identify the causes of urban decline in England and recommend practical ways of bringing people back into cities, towns and urban neighbourhoods.

The task force comprised a wide range of organisations concerned with the built environment. Its report, Towards an urban renaissance, was published in 1999. Among its many recommendations was the introduction of standardised documentation that described the condition of land, to give greater certainty and consistency in handling information relating to the management and sale of contaminated land.

The concept of a standard Land Condition Record (LCR) arose from this recommendation. An LCR Working Group was convened, set up by task force members including bankers, insurers and property owners, together with the Environment Agency and professionals such as lawyers, chartered surveyors, environmental and engineering consultants. The LCR was drafted by this group and published in November 2000.

There was a clear desire from the 'client' side of the group for some form of accreditation for the specialists who would eventually sign off the LCR. Over the next year or so work was undertaken to develop a scheme that would register Specialists in Land Condition (SiLC).

The registration scheme has been developed and implemented by a professional and technical panel of representatives from relevant commercial and professional bodies, chaired by Judith Lowe. The Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) administers the scheme. Sponsorship with the Regional Development Agencies over the first three years has been agreed until the scheme is self-financing. Thereafter registration and annual renewal fees will cover the operating costs.

SiLC registration is a professional qualification for people, not for organisations or companies. Before being accepted on to the register candidates must meet certain criteria.

Applicants should:

lbe graduates or have extensive relevant experience lhave the appropriate level of membership of relevant professional bodies lhave a minimum of eight years' relevant experience and demonstrate that they are active in dealing in contaminated land.

Successful candidates must:

lachieve more than 60% in an open book assessment. This has been designed to take about three to four days of work (ie about 25 hours) lbe successful in a peer interview.

Accredited persons must keep up to date with relevant technical and other developments, and this must be demonstrated in a CPD log sheet submitted every two years.

The first set of candidates achieved registration in November 2001 and the second set is now in the throes of examination and peer interview. A third tranche will be going through the system in June. In future it is envisaged that there will be three accreditation sessions each year.

There has long been concern over the absence of authority with respect to contaminated land projects which SiLC accreditation will help to address. Over the past decade companies and individuals with more mainstream geotechnical skills and experience have all too often drifted into the investigation, assessment and remediation of contaminated land with little or no regard to the multidisciplinary nature of the work.

The closest many project teams got to the involvement of an environmental chemist on a contaminated land project was when they bought some aspirin from Boots to counter the effects of the fumes that they had been breathing in all day.

There have been numerous instances of engineers or geologists scheduling and interpreting chemical data on soils and waters with no specialist chemist input (and similarly chemists taking samples with no proper strata description/ log), often with disastrous results.

The introduction of the SiLC designation must be seen as a very welcome development and one which is not before time.

I believe SiLC accreditation may well be a more important development than that of the LCR from which it was derived.

Recognition of the importance of SiLC accreditation and its value - not only to the individuals concerned, but also to their companies, clients and projects - is a vital step in driving up the quality of the work we do and thus the value that it is perceived to have.

lHugh Mallett is chairman elect of the Association of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Specialists and project director at Enviros Aspinwall with over 25 years' experience in engineering geology and contaminated land.

Further information on the LCR and the SiLC accreditation scheme can be obtained from Johanna Walker at the IEMA, email:

info@iema. net, and at www. silc. org. uk

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