Soil Environment Services

Soil Surveys, Soil Investigations, Site Investigations and Environmental Land Surveys

Agricultural and forestry land classification

Soil Environment Services has considerable expertise in delivering soil assessments and soil surveys for greenfield sites and agricultural land, including forestry land classification (LCCF). This can be required for example to meet planning requirements for housing or solar park planning applications, building development or mineral extraction applications.


Our services in this area include:

           Land classification surveys – (Further information below)

  • Agricultural Land Classification (ALC – England & Wales),
  • Land Capability Classification for Agriculture (LCCA – Scotland)
  • Land Capability Classification for Forestry (LCCF)

            Environmental permits for land spreading

            Mineral extraction soil movement planning Further information

            Woodland burial site soil survey


Soil impact assessment and mitigation for your development can be included in a report which would be designed in consultation with yourselves to integrate into a larger environmental impact assessment or statement report if required.


Statement of competence

SES Ltd undertake several dozen ALC or LCCA surveys a year and have worked on sites up to 1000 ha.  We have won many contracts to supply Land Classification reports to local authorities as part of their strategic development plans.  We have been awarded contracts to survey major infrastructure schemes such the Norwich Northern Distributor road. We liaise with the regulatory authorities to ensure all aspects of our reports are acceptable.  Our directors have PhDs in soil physics and plant biology and this ensures we have an in depth understanding of the processes and science underpinning the ALC system.  Our staff  have worked on research projects which have contributed to central government policy on aspects of land restoration and have jointly developed minerals industry guidance documents for soil handling.  SES have been at the forefront of training new science graduates to become ALC surveyors over many decades and these now work in numerous consultancies across the UK.  Our current expert team of soil scientists are members of the British Society of Soil Science and have attended specialist ALC training courses run by DEFRA and soil survey courses in Scotland. We have worked to review other consultants ALC reports in order to contribute to public enquiry proceedings dealing with mineral extraction and solar park planning applications.


Contact us to schedule a greenfield/agricultural soil survey or to discuss your survey or land classification requirements.   Please contact Dr Robin Davies  Tel.  01661 844827


 forestry land classification







Further information

Land classification surveys are undertaken  across the UK on a regular basis for development on single sites or across broad areas for strategic planning by local authorities or mineral extraction operators.


ALC Survey – Agricultural Land Classification (England and Wales) Defra ALC Leaflet


To assist in assessing land quality usually for development and planning purposes, the former Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) developed a method for classifying agricultural land by grade according to the extent to which its physical or chemical characteristics impose long-term limitations on agricultural use for food production. Agricultural Land Classification (ALC Survey) is undertaken strictly in accordance with:


Agricultural Land Classification of England and Wales
Guidelines and criteria for grading the quality of agricultural land
(Revised guidelines 1988 and Draft second revision 1996, MAFF, London)
The detailed soil assessment needed for an ALC survey encompasses the themes set out in the UK first Soil Action Plan (see Defra Soil Action Plan).


The classification includes a review of previous surveys and site information followed by an in depth field examination of the soil carried out in accordance with current survey methods and guidance documents. Field assessment of the soil by our experienced soil survey consultants is essential.


Laboratory analysis may be required for soils from some sites. Flood risk information, if needed, is taken from Environment Agency records.


Reporting will include:


  • Separate colour maps for soil types and ALC Grades.
  • Appendices with all MET Office Agro-climatic data.


LCCA Land Capability Classification for Agriculture (Scotland)


We undertake LCCA surveys in Scotland also for development and planning purposes. The general survey and methodology is similar to the ALC system outlined above, however the classification is derived from the United States Department of Agriculture system and ultimately results in a greater number of land grades than the ALC system.


Again, the classification includes a review of previous surveys and site information followed by an in depth field examination of the soil carried out in accordance with current survey methods and guidance documents.


LCCF Land Capability Classification for Forestry


Forestry land classification, or LCCF surveys, have been undertaken by Soil Environment Services for developments in upland areas as this land classification system is an aid to decision-making at broad planning levels, as a guide for land managers and as a statement of the natural resources of the land of Britain in terms of forestry.


Unlike the land classifications systems for agriculture, Forestry land classification (LCCF) includes an assessment of the windthrow hazard that may occur in an area. Due to the prevalence of planting in the hill areas of Britain where high wind speeds and soils producing shallow rooting are most likely to occur in combination, windthrow hazard is recognised as a limitation in this land classification.


Please contact us if you require this type of investigation.