Environmental Information in the Digital Age – Royal Society of the Arts and Argyll Environmental Ltd – Brighton

This was a unique opportunity for Fellows to see at close quarters, the current developments that are taking place in the digital and creative space, which utilize cutting edge environmental data  FRSA Mark Hadley long time associate of Argyll Environmental invited Fellows to Argyll Environmentals offices in Central Brighton to see how some of the UK’s leading environmental databases had been harnessed by this innovative company to produce bespoke environmental reports for UK conveyancing professionals.

The proceedings were opened with a presentation from Chris Taylor Product Development Director for Argyll Environmental’s Parent Company Landmark Information Group who explained the vast range of data products being produced by the energetic, professional team based in Brighton. These reports cover environmental due diligence data to assist the property market and the public with key information on issues that might affect property – contaminated land, flood risks, development risks, restrictive designations, the location of pollution incidents etc.

We were then treated to a gallop through two presentations by Ben Furlong and Jez Nicholson using PechaKucha techniques to deliver their presentations on UK Flood Risk developments, and how UK Infrastructure developments such as HighSpeed2 might affect our environment.

All this was amply aided and abetted by local wine specialists Henry Butler owner of Butlers Wine Cellar, a local Brighton specialist who ensured fellows had his own unique view on how to explore the refreshment break.

The meeting followed up with a short film that looked at how the world for business and society might look in 2018,challenged by the ever growing issues surrounding climate change, resource depletion and over-population.

Time for a break, so Fellows, and local invitees including Tom Wellings of Emotive Systems, CEO Kay Phillips and Mike Hobbs of Hobbs Law turned up for a look at what was being discussed.  There were more entrepreneurs in the room than you could shake a stick at, luckily we had Chair of the Fellowship Council Irene Campbell to keep us all in check.

Our thanks to AEL and Landmark Group for making this a stimulating and thought provoking event, and for the eclectic mixture of RSA Fellows and camp followers to contributed to the success of the event.

Earthquake Asbestos Contamination Risk

On the 4th September 2010 a massive earthquake caused substantial damage throughout the city of Christchurch, New Zealand including substantial loss of life.


The aftermath of such events can have long-standing impacts that are not immediately apparent at the time, or shortly after the event.  When the earthquake came, it demolished domestic and commercial buildings alike, many of which contained asbestos.  Asbestos has been widely used in New Zealand in many buildings and therefore it was a sure bet there was some in the 8,000,000 tonnes of building rubble which resulted from the quake.

ISIS carried out an investigation which reviewed asbestos use in NZ, then using rudimentary data that was available compared this with the typical amounts of asbestos that were released by the collapse of the World Trade Centre on 9/11/2001, which equated to approximately 400 tonnes of asbestos, in 1.5-2.0 million tonnes of building rubble.

The Christchurch wastes are in process of being systematically removed to a landfill at Bottle Lake, Christchurch for safe disposal. Our 2012 study looked at the risks from the release of airborne asbestos fibres based on comparable studies and the potential impact of this in the areas surrounding the landfill and transport routes.

Little Acorns – Groundsure

Back in the mid 1990’s our principal was running a small environmental consultancy and had the bright idea that  there must be some commercial value in collecting environmental data, in the form of national datasets for it’s own site evaluation processes.

Datasets were acquired and developed into a simple database called ‘ContamiCheck’, the value in the reports was thought to be attractive to solicitors, surveyors and other property professionals to provide basic environmental due diligence on sites they were acquiring or selling for their clients.

The initial reports were very simple, paper delivered assessments of which a few dozen were produced each month.  Eventually, this database was taken out from the former business and used as the basis for an ambitious punt at acquiring venture capital to build a new stand alone business.

Metropolitan Venture Partners provided the first tranche of about £650k investment, for the new Company -Groundsure in 2000 and the business launched in 2001.Image

The Company grew and developed, one of only three key businesses in the fast evolving environmental data market.  In April 2007 Emap Ltd announced its acquisition of the entire shareholding capital of GroundSure in a deal valuing the business at around £45 million.



Assessing Contaminated Land Risk

In 2011 we were asked to carry out a review of the different levels of environmental risk associated with contaminated land spread across the UK.

This was an independent third party assessment task to support an existing land contamination classification system for a major player in the environmental sector.

We evaluated their current risk profile tools, then validated these against a number of specimen sites picked at random from around the United Kingdom, referencing are study back against our own databank of over 1000 UK contaminated sites and site investigation reports.

One of the UK’s largest contaminated land audits

Our pedigree with major projects has been established over more than 30 years in the environmental sector.

Our key Director was responsible for organising an audit of the contaminated land liabilities for the former British Alcan Aluminium reporting to the then CEO Paul Rata back in 1991/2. The survey project involved visiting 146 company owned or leased sites throughout the UK for this former, industrial metals-producing giant.

Never before had all the contingent liabilities associated with contaminated land in their estates portfolio been assessed, a job that took two years to accomplish and took in Alcan’s smelters at Lynemouth, Invergordon and Lochaber, the Burntisland bauxite processing plant and major aluminium pressing and rolling mills, stockholders and administrative properties.

This was at the cutting edge of environmental auditing techniques at the time, and extended to evaluations of contingent liabilities and environmental risks from numerous (formerly unregulated landfills) within the portfolio. This major audit programme was part of the British Alcan Aluminium divestment programme prior to the break up of the Company and subsequent successful sale of constituent parts.