Competence in Land Contamination

Discussions on standards and quality are still much of a debate for the contaminated land industry.  Whilst the days of using ICRCL Trigger Values without reading the footnotes may be long gone, as an industry, there is concern about the varying quality of reports and consequently the competence of staff preparing them.

The Specialist in Land Condition (SiLC) register, although launched by the Urban Task Force in 1999 to support the use of the Land Condition Record,  generally has become accepted as a recognition of competence in the condition of land.  Yet without any external statutory requirements to drive the SiLC Register and the high entry requirements this has remained small with currently less than 200 names appearing on the online register.

In 2012 there was a ripple of anticipation that at last there might be a requirement for competence with the launch of the following definition of a Competent Person given in the National Planning Policy Framework:

Competent person (to prepare site investigation information): A person with a recognised relevant qualification, sufficient experience in dealing with the type(s) of pollution or land instability, and membership of a relevant professional organisation.

Four years on there is no further clarity on these “relevant” qualifications, memberships and “sufficient” experience.  After the success of the Qualified Person (QP) scheme for The Definition of Waste: Development Industry Code of Practice (with over 243 Registered QPs currently) the industry is collaborating on other schemes.

This month saw the launch of SoBRA’s Register of Risk Assessors, the aim of which is to recognise and reward the technical skills associated with land contamination risk assessment.  The scheme has two, grades of registration:

  • Registered Risk Assessor (RSoBRA)
  • Accredited Risk Assessor (ASoBRA)

Interestingly the lower tier of registration does not require Membership of a relevant professional body although it is considered desirable. For more details on the different tiers of registration and how to apply please go to

Whilst the SoBRA is a standalone qualification it has been designed with the Land Forum’s National Quality Mark Scheme in mind and states that:

“the scheme presents an opportunity for its members to demonstrate to a Suitably Qualified Person (SQP), under the Land Forums National Quality Mark Scheme, that they are sufficiently competent to support the SQP in undertaking or reviewing the risk assessment element of their project”

The Land Forum’s National Quality Mark Scheme is still under development and for the latest updates reference should be made to relevant section of CL:AIRE’s website at  It is anticipated that the launch will be in the last quarter of this year.  Applications to be come a SQP will be through when launched.

It will be interesting to see whether these schemes will have the reach and authority to drive up standards in an industry so often driven by price with little understanding of value versus risk.  Only time will tell.