Providing assurance to Developers and Regulator(s) that the risks arising from land contamination have been adequately assessed and dealt with by competent people

A national quality mark scheme for land affected by contamination has been developed by the Land Forum in a bid to improve standards. The Quality Mark for Land affected by Contamination (QMLC) scheme has support from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and is currently going through an open consultation and liaison with identified stakeholders.

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The proposed quality mark aims to provide increased confidence and improved quality of submissions made under regulatory regimes. The QMLC mark will:

  • provide assurance to Developers (who retain the legal responsibility for adequately dealing with land contamination problems) and to Regulator(s) that the risks arising from land contamination have been adequately assessed and dealt with by competent people; and
  • improve the quality of reports delivered by the contaminated land industry to a level whereby Developers and Regulator(s) can better rely upon the conclusions put forward without the need for further scrutiny or auditing.

Reports prepared in line with good practice will be signed off by a Suitably Qualified and experienced Person (SQP) approved by the QMLC scheme who checks and ensures that the following five key points have been addressed:

  1. The work has been undertaken by competent people who have relevant experience and/or qualifications in their respective disciplines
  2. The data has been collected in line with established good practice procedures and its collection has been subject to control via established quality management systems (QMS).
  3. The data has been processed, analysed and interpreted in line with established good practice and any specific advice provided by the relevant regulatory authorities or other authoritative bodies.
  4. The report sets out conclusions or recommendations that are substantiated by the underlying data and are based upon reasonable interpretations.
  5. Any limitations in the data or uncertainties in the analysis are clearly identified along with the possible consequences of such limitations.

The QMLC is a voluntary scheme and has been designed to operate alongside existing quality management systems. It relies upon the capability of individuals whose status has already been assessed by other professional bodies.

Companies who employ SQPs will be able to see the Quality Mark applied by their SQP to all relevant reports they submit under the scheme providing their SQP signs off on them and companies who do not employ SQPs can have their work reviewed and verified externally by an SQP selected from the register.

The SQP as an individual within an organisation will carry the QMLC and this would go with them should they move on.

The scheme draws similarities with the Australian Environmental Auditing system (VIC EPA) where a Developer/Client requires an assessing consultant to carry out the work and an Auditor to check their work. It is the Auditor’s personal responsibility to ensure the work meets the relevant criteria and they are held individually accountable (in some cases in a court of Law) for their decisions. This can make sign off challenging due to the ‘grey areas’ associated with land contamination and groundwater assessments.

The requirements for a SQP to meet would be as follows:

  • A Chartered person who has been assessed by a professional body/institution and is bound by the professional code of conduct of that professional body/institution;
  • Of sufficient experience in the sector to have a good overview of what is required to effectively assess a site and remediate it to a suitable condition (and thereby meet the requirements for regulatory signoff);
  • Capable of recognising their own limitations and those specialist skills required of others in a multidisciplinary industry;
  • Aware of the requirements of the regulatory regimes under which the work is being undertaken; and
  • Bound by their professional bodies to undertake continuing professional development (CPD) and hence maintain awareness of changing legislation, guidance and standards.

The SQP must have been assessed for competence by a suitably robust process of examination and interview as recognised by relevant professional bodies/institutions and additionally understand how to operate the QMLC scheme. The scheme is due to roll out in October 2015 with training proposed as a half day or online equivalent module for the SQPs to enable compliance with QMLC requirements.

The full consultation document can be downloaded by clicking here and the notes from the last Land Forum meeting held January 2015 here.

H2Ogeo provides land contamination assessments and third party independent reviews. See the services section of the website to find out more.

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References: Land Forum report and ENDS Directory