Why It’s Perfectly Possible to Bring Brownfield Sites Back to Life

Three elements are needed to make brownfield developments thrive: determination, expertise and intelligence.

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This is being driven with new force by a government commitment to finding plots for 160,000 new homes by 2020. They also know that a vibrant building sector is a traditional way of getting the whole economy moving again. In the past, the government often presented planning hurdles for brownfield development. It has been long and complex, but it can be navigated far quicker now that we have improved the second factor – expertise.


This is being provided by the scale and experience of the UK’s land remediation services sector. In the government’s own words, “The UK is a world leader in the regeneration and management of industrial land.” This expertise is an export asset that is a net contributor to the UK economy in its own right.

Our market-leading firms have improved technological resources and know-how. For example, a variety of tailored treatment slurries, often utilizing cheap waste products from other industries, can be injected into contaminated material to neutralize or stabilise it for extraction. The resulting materials can often be used in construction, recycled into other useful products or rendered into safe landfill. See numerous case studies here:


Intelligence – in the sense of pre-knowledge of what issues will be encountered on any particular site – is the element that has often scared away investors and developers. This is changing. There have been advances in monitoring equipment and laboratory facilities, and UK firms excel at risk assessment. Hazard identification, exposure assessment, dose-response data and characterization are all combined to improve the planning, approach, communications and long-term physical outcomes. Detailed mathematical models of the pollutants in soil and groundwater are created to identify the safe amounts by which chemicals must be reduced, and monitoring throughout any remediation process keeps stakeholders reliably informed about progress on a reassuring day-by-day basis.

Many sites prove to be far less contaminated than developers feared, and often simple soil capping or a physical barrier within the ground can easily be handled by a non-specialist builder.

Environmental groups are pleased by the fact that brownfield developments protect greenfield sites. Brownfield land tends to be located closer to urban amenities, so it is convenient both for the builders and eventual residents.