pauldoc

Contamination Survey....deep breaths!

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I had a couple of conditions applied to my planning permission, one of which was a 'phase 1' study and site walk over contamination survey.

The site is an existing residential plot with a bungalow. There were no visible signs of any problems and the survey confirmed this, coming back with no issues. (a complete waste of money in other words!)

So, I have been waiting for the LA environmental health dept to process this, expecting there to be no problems. However the chap who is dealing with it (I am being polite!) emailed me today to say that although there are no problems he has concerns that the oil tank although relatively new (hes has no idea) has replaced at some point an older tank that may not have been in good condition. He goes on to say "Whilst I am satisfied that a full intrusive investigation would not be required I would advise that a limited sampling exercise is carried out in and around the area of the tank."

Now I would estimate the existing tank is at least 10-15 yrs old. There is no visible evidence of any problems with leakage/spills. The part of the garden it is in grows perfectly well, no patches , the grass is healthy and just a couple of weeks ago had a trench dug just by it to move the electric cable underground. Annoyingly it got filled in yesterday| But the soil was normal, healthy and no odours.

I have emailed him back to inform him of all this. I am just annoyed that not only is this going to cost more time, but is again going to waste a considerable amount of my money.

Any thoughts or advice as to if I can get out of this of a way to save costs in the worst case

 

 

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We had the same issues, Desk Study - No issue, EH wouldn't discharge the conditions we ended up having to have a site walkover and 8 or 9 trial holes and tests done on the soile, which all came back negative for contamination, the total cost was around £3k.

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Its this stuff that puts you off the whole thing. Its such a waste of money and it seems these people don't look at each site on an individual basis. The chap who did the walk over even said it was a waste of time. The guy at the Enviro dept even said that it was really to update their records!! oh good, really pleased I can help you with that at my cost!

Its a residential woodland garden for goodness sake....sorry for the rant!

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You can get relatively cheap soil analysis if you collect the samples yourself - one or two should be enough especially given that their concern is related to a relatively small area.

My suggested approach should be to push back at this stage, based on what you've already communicated and then concede to have 1-2 localised samples tested - you can agree the locations with the EH guy to give him some feeling of control.

Can you persuade him to come to site?

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Thanks bitpipe, I was thinking along those lines myself. A family member has a power auger so I was thinking of using that myself.

The chap hasn't responded to my email yet...no surprise! When he does if hes not budging I will suggest as you say. I think he should come to site to see as then he can make a considered recommendation. We are ready to start, and these conditions are subject to being discharged pre commencement. Do you think I could suggest that the soils sample is to be done prior to completion? At the end of the day it is a tiny area on a large plot and we are not even using oil going forward.  The worst case we have a digger on site and can get on with the ground works first?

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That sounds more like my budget Peter, thank you very much!!

When the 'person' at the EA eventually replies , I will check what it is he wants exactly. My one thought through all this is how do the EA prove where you have taken the sample from if you do it yourself!

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21 minutes ago, pauldoc said:

That sounds more like my budget Peter, thank you very much!!

When the 'person' at the EA eventually replies , I will check what it is he wants exactly. My one thought through all this is how do the EA prove where you have taken the sample from if you do it yourself!

Couldn't possibly comment...... :ph34r:

Wanna buy some soil.....??

 

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Now I'm not in any way suggesting there is some sort of enviro contamination cartel¬¬ but just called that company Peter and they pointed me to another company who they use to do the TPH test. That company is in Kent which I thought that's handy. However spoke the the  'director' who said I need a 'consultant' to advise me what test I need as there are a number of different TPH tests and he couldn't advise me which one I needed, and anyway they didn't deal with the public. I did say to him it sounded like he was complicating matters and if they are testing for heating oil how can that be confused with another test!!  Arghhh

So my quest continues

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SHould this have been a case of "first remove your oil tank" ... ?

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1 minute ago, Ferdinand said:

SHould this have been a case of "first remove your oil tank" ... ?

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

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Dig a hole with a spade to around 500mm deep. If it's only been a small spill any contamination will be here. If it's there you will def smell it. Get the LA tube to come out and see for himself that it's( hopefully )clear. If you are lucky enough to hit water and its clear then there is no spill. 

But if you aren't lucky and find oil then he will ask for a proper survey to be done with samples sent away and a gas monitoring pipe installed as well. 

Best dig the hole before he comes out so you are prepared either way.

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I sometimes think we should have a "useful tips before you submit a planning application" sticky here.  On it would be things like, before you submit an application, or seek planning advice, do the following:

- Fill in any ponds that might possibly contain Great Crested Newts

- Remove the roof from any structure on site that might possibly house bats

- Remove any indication of there ever having been oil tanks or any other form of hazardous substance from the site.

- Fell all and any trees that you think might possibly restrict what you want to do.

- Run a bulldozer over the site to scrape the topsoil clear and remove any evidence of there ever having been a trace of anything of ecological value there.

- If you suspect there could be archaeology, dig down to a depth as deep as your foundations will be over any area you may have to excavate as a part of the build.

- grub up and remove any old hedges that might be in the way, lest they contain nesting birds, dormice etc that could impact your application adversely.

 

(the above was written tongue-in-cheek, but I'd suggest that doing all, or some, of it would save a lot of self-builders a great deal of money...................)

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Most of the above gets done on a regular basis and a lot more.

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Should we have this as one of our normal advice points?

I Think there have been a couple of examples in the last year where tiny contamination spots were used as reasons to request a lot of sampling.

Wasn't there one where the previous owner used to maintain their lawnmower or something similarly trivial?

Ferdinand

 

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good job I don't have to do contamination survey, my jcb leaks all over the place ☺ I second Jeremy's idea.

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28 minutes ago, joe90 said:

good job I don't have to do contamination survey, my jcb leaks all over the place ☺ I second Jeremy's idea.

Sounds like my Landrover "Leaks oil in all the right places"

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I think a 'shudda done that first'  list is a great idea.  I am now awaiting the chaps response to what I should do. He did send a mail late Friday just before he left the office I reckon. Proving he hasn't even looked at the plans properly he asked 'is the new property being built over where the tank was positioned' it's nowhere near and the tank position is not being given dug up or disturbed. This is what is so frustrating when these departments don't even pick up the phone and have a conversation. It's so much quicker and easy

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Sorry  he did also say there could have been a spill when the tank was being refilled.....and like you guys have said, I might have spilt oil /fuel filling the mower/car. It still doesn't justify holding the work up or having the authority to make you do these things in my opinion 

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After many emails back and forth the chap at EH has now thankfully agreed with me and will take the finding of the Phase1 survey. Just a few more grey hairs!

I have to say it really would have helped if he had come to site instead of making lots of assumptions I sent him photos in the end with very simple descriptions!

He did say he felt that a cost 500-900 pounds wasnt an excessive cost for a safe development !! .These extra 500 quids all add up!! 

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16 minutes ago, pauldoc said:

After many emails back and forth the chap at EH has now thankfully agreed with me and will take the finding of the Phase1 survey. Just a few more grey hairs!

I have to say it really would have helped if he had come to site instead of making lots of assumptions I sent him photos in the end with very simple descriptions!

He did say he felt that a cost 500-900 pounds wasnt an excessive cost for a safe development !! .These extra 500 quids all add up!! 

I've found that the people who are paid once (BC, planning etc) are the hardest to get out of the office, whilst those who are paid per visit seem to be happy to get out to come and pick holes in the plans...!!

The most bizarre one so far is planning want physical bricks to agree the match on an extension but they are going to compare it to a photo they took ..!!!! I suggested I took a photo of the new and old side by side but apparently that's not acceptable .... So suggested a site visit and was told no ..! 

Go figure that one ..! 

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3 minutes ago, PeterW said:

I've found that the people who are paid once (BC, planning etc) are the hardest to get out of the office, whilst those who are paid per visit seem to be happy to get out to come and pick holes in the plans...!!

The most bizarre one so far is planning want physical bricks to agree the match on an extension but they are going to compare it to a photo they took ..!!!! I suggested I took a photo of the new and old side by side but apparently that's not acceptable .... So suggested a site visit and was told no ..! 

Go figure that one ..! 

Even getting them to answer the phone is a mission! If this guy had picked up the phone at the start it could have been sorted in one conversation. I think some (not all) are a little braver hiding behind emails. When I get to the end of this project (seems a long long way off!) and I add up all the unnecessary extras (in my eyes) It will be a significant sum 

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18 minutes ago, pauldoc said:

When I get to the end of this project (seems a long long way off!) and I add up all the unnecessary extras (in my eyes) It will be a significant sum 

Don't do it - that way lies madness!

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Hi, I'm a little late to this party, but we've had an enviro all in one report (all clean and clear), then the council asked for a Phase I report (all clean and clear). Now they've granted permission subject to a Phase II report and full remediation strategy. Quotes indicate this will cost £3-£4k! The Principal Planning Officer has fobbed me off to the Environmental Protection Officer, whom I've emailed with the following excerpt from the Phase I:

 

'The conclusion of this report and assessment is that there has been
no contaminative use on site and there is no need for further site
investigation. The site has been used as pasture until 1909 and then nursery
gardens until 1967 when it became a residential plot.'
 

If the EPO refuses to budge on this, I think I can appeal the condition. Has anyone done this and won?

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