Developing a small brownfield site?

30th October 2018

Geoenvironmental • Geotechnical

In June 2018, CIRIA, the Construction Industry Research and Information Association, published a guide to developing small brownfield sites. The A5 120-page booklet is aimed at landowners, developers, builders, their advisors and funders. It provides sound practical advice to help overcome the barriers and issues that can obstruct the development and management of small brownfield sites and general guidance on the technical, financial and planning issues when managing land contamination.

Because they have been previously used, small brownfield sites pose some unique challenges to all stakeholders involved in their development. They can be hindered by derelict structures, below ground obstructions, structures or voids, asbestos, land contamination, poor ground, archaeological features, buried services, location and poor access.

The first section of the CIRIA guide, defines what a small brownfield site development is and covers project development, process and timescales. Section two offers guidance on developing a project team. For SME developers, section three of the guide is arguably the most important. Entitled ‘Before buying a small brownfield site’ it reinforces that financial viability and funding are key. Brownfield site developments are normally the preserve of SME building firms and developers. SMEs often need to source external finance to fund their projects. Most lenders require detailed information, from robust sources, about the development and could require land contamination and geotechnical assessments.

A Phase 1 preliminary site investigation report (desk study) will reveal possible issues. It will also be required at the pre-planning stage. Depending on its findings a Phase 2 intrusive site investigation may also be required.

These assessments will reveal the full extent of works required to prepare the site for re-development. The cost of any demolition, waste or asbestos removal, remediation and verification work, could be substantial. Therefore, accurate costing at this stage is critical. Lenders will want to be confident the development is financially viable if they are to agree to fund it. The guide emphasizes that SME developers would be wise to be in possession of this information before they commit to the project. This part of the guide also covers, risk management and developing a risk register, funding sources, including grants, tax reliefs and incentives.

Section four covers all SMEs need to know about progressing a planning application. Detail on planning strategy, technical reports, phased approaches and joint approaches with geotechnical and contaminated land reports, are covered. This section of the guide is well illustrated with easy to follow flow charts taking the reader through the various processes.

Section five covers preparing for building works and covers building regulations approval, planning conditions, geotechnical and environmental investigation and risk assessments, water and drainage. There are top tips for commissioning a Phase 2 assessment on a budget. How to combine geotechnical and contaminated land investigations in one easy to read table.
Section six majors on the construction stage. There is useful information on remediation, verification, ground gas measures and monitoring. The section also covers, ground improvement and foundation design and construction, managing waste and construction phase finance.

Section seven covers ‘closeout’. It provides guidance on final inspections, verification reports, health and safety, and financial exit. There are also notes on discharge of planning conditions and waste records.

The final chapter advises on the management of dormant brownfield sites. There is a useful flow chart to help SMEs follow the process.

There is a glossary of terms, reference information and further reading guide. The appendices, contain further guidance. There are 17 useful case studies included from section one to seven and the booklet is easy to read and very well illustrated throughout.

Ground and Water has worked with SME developers and builders for many years and has a detailed understanding of the challenges they face. We believe this publication is essential reading for any clients or potential clients thinking about acquiring and developing a small brownfield site. The emphasis is to assess the site’s viability at an early stage. We would be delighted to become part of your brownfield development technical team, helping to clarify any of the technical aspects of the process and providing practical assistance as required. Please contact us for more information.

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