Soil Environment Services undertake a range of soil surveys and planning services for landscape architects, environmental consultants and quarry and waste site operators.
Soil management, including soil planning or handling advice covers a broad range of tasks which need to be undertaken before, during and after the mineral extraction phase at a quarry or other large development site. Overall, procedures are governed by the Town and County Planning Act 1990 and the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations 1999. This legislation covers broad procedures relating to the information required by regulatory authorities when assessing planning applications for mineral extraction sites. In addition, a number of guidance documents can be stipulated as required practice for soil management at a particular site and this can then be enforced by the Local Planning Authority within a Decision Notice following a planning application.
Preparation of a soil handling strategy
In the first instance a soil resources survey is undertaken to assess all available soils and soil making materials. This is very often undertaken in conjunction with a Soil Quality Assessment or ALC Grading, however in addition, drift materials may be assessed as potential soil-forming materials if a shortage of soil exists.
Soil removal, storage and replacement
A suitable soil handling schedule will be developed for the local Mineral Planning Authority (MPA) and will use the soil resources survey to facilitate the schedule for stripping of the topsoil (approx. 0.2 m) and the subsoil (approx 1.0 m if available). Advice will be given on best practice guidance for handling as detailed in Good Practice for Handling Soils published by MAFF.
An impact assessment on the soils, again often undertaken in conjunction with a soil quality assessment or ALC Grading, utilises the same soil survey data and assesses the expected impact on the soil of all handling operations appropriate to the site in question. This work is tailored to the requirements stipulated in The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations 1999. Recommendations are made, in the light of the soils present, as to the particular mitigating measures needed during handling. At this point consideration of themes within the UK first Soil Action Plan would take place. The final restoration design is considered in addressing residual impact and in particular opportunities for improving soil conditions in terms of soil quality for biodiversity and ALC Grade by for example, re-grading, soil mixing and soil manufacture.