A notable example of collaboration is the Leven Project as site investigation and remediation increasingly merges with overall sustainability.

Hannah Swanson, senior business consultant, SEPA, Stuart Malcolm, landscape architect, Iglu Studio, Paul Morsley, urban designer, Iglu Studio, Ian McCrory, lead professional for Economic Regeneration, Fife Council, Donald Payne, technical officer, Fife Council, Helen McMillan, associate director, RSK and Kate Fuller, senior programme manager, Green Action Trust, explained their parts in the overall scheme and the benefits of collaboration.

The concept masterplan was that river catchments are the standard functioning unit of the landscape: water, soil, plants, and animals are all interconnected within a catchment. A healthy catchment is essential for human survival. It is where our food is grown and where the water we drink comes from.

The Leven Programme is a series of connected projects along the River Leven in Fife, involving many key government agencies, non-government organisations, private sector businesses and local communities working closely together to help deliver environmental improvements in and around the river, while maximising the social and economic opportunities that these improvements can bring.

On 29 July 2019, 11 partners signed a landmark Sustainable Growth Agreement which formalised the partnership, committing them to work together to explore new and innovative ways to improve environmental performance and focus on practical actions that deliver environmental, social, and economic success for the Leven catchment. In June 2020, a further four partners signed up to the agreement.

The partners include: Fife Council, SEPA , Green Action Trust, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Water, Network Rail, Sustrans, Fife College, Diageo, Zero Waste Scotland, The Coal Authority, Keep Scotland Beautiful, Forth Rivers Trust, Nature Scot, Historic Environment Scotland, University of Stirling, NHS Fife, SGN and the Fife Coast and Countryside Trust.

The aims of the project include shared outcomes, connectivity, health and wellbeing, heritage, water innovation, resilient communities, productive people and place, and climate action.

The multiple projects are too many to mention in this write-up, but one example is the construction of Phase 1 of the Active Travel Network, which will provide links to the new railway stations at Leven and Cameron Bridge. 

The aim is an accessible, attractive, and biodiverse public park for the local communities of Levenmouth, as well as visitors to the area, that also provides additional off-road active travel links to the new rail stations and connects the on-road active travel network to the river.

Six themed gardens have been designed along the river, built on areas of land that are currently abandoned and/or in poor condition, focusing on local heritage and community needs identified through consultation.

The Levenmouth Active Travel and river Park Concept Design Masterplan was created by Iglu Studio

The River Leven and its tributaries are a vital part of the local landscape in Fife, as well as being a great asset to the communities that live alongside them. They provide a wide range of benefits, including wildlife corridors for plants, insects, and animal life, opportunities for recreation, such as fishing and water sports, natural flood management well-being, such as places to spend time and relax.

Another project is the Leven Programme Heritage Framework which provides a guiding structure for planning and delivering long term benefits for the people and environment along the River Leven through their shared heritage. It aims to use heritage to help create a broader ‘sense of place’ and community engagement and capacity building through enhanced partnership working and broadening the role of heritage, tackling issues of social and economic deprivation.

The aim of the scheme overall is to attract investment, deliver multiple benefits, create added value interventions, and shared learnings. To date the project is referenced in National Planning Framework 4 for approach to blue / green infrastructure and subject of a Carbon Conscious Places case study by Architecture & Design Scotland as well as a Volans’ Green Swan living case study. It has been designated as a Climate Beacon for COP26 and Winner of Best Project Preparatory Work at the 2022 Brownfield Awards.

Besides collaborative working, projects can be delivered from multiple funding sources, and so far, the scheme has had investment from the Vacant and Derelict Land Fund, NLHF, Sustrans Scotland, Transport Scotland, Levelling Up Fund, Water Environment Fund, Nature Restoration Fund, Creative Carbon Scotland, Dandelion Scot, BEIS Regulators Pioneer Fund, Various partner organisations including Fife Council, Diageo and SEPA.

Data collection and management

Another theme of the conference was the advances in onsite sampling and monitoring and increasing efficiencies in data handling.

Dr Ken Scally MSc FRSC technical and quality director DETS outlined the benefits of an onsite laboratories, with an example of one close to an oil spill.

He said: "Rapid testing and analysis of spilled material can provide instant data on its composition, aiding quick decision-making for containment and clean-up strategies.

"Continuous monitoring of environmental factors, such as air and water quality, allows for immediate adjustments to clean-up methods based on evolving conditions and the ability to proactively respond to data and insights."

Scally explained that onsite labs reduced time lags in sample transportation, which he said could be time consuming and costly.

"Swift resource deployment optimises the clean-up process. Immediate results allow resources to be precisely targeted where they are most needed.

"And availability of real time data from an onsite laboratory fosters transparency and trust among stakeholders and the public regarding the clean-up efforts and its progress."

Craig Cox, president and principal scientist, Cox-Colvin & Associates talked on a related theme - Advancing On-Site Environmental Forensics for Immediate Environmental Impact Assessment.

He said that environmental projects create a multitude of data in many forms – analytical results, field related information, correspondence and reports and they all have to be gathered in a manner which ensures data is defensive in a risk assessment.

He advised considering a document custodian in the team or company, and to manage documents and file data as soon as possible, and where possible use kick-off meetings to discuss data collection, lab restrictions, and lines of communications.

Data collector software can be used to manage documents and analytical results. Cox advised that to reduce costs – it should be built on an open-source database. And if it is internet enabled it will allow all team members to access it.

Cox took delegates through an example from CCA’s data inspector, pulling out an example of lab data and an analytical report, including water levels and trends and how this related to the GIS map. He used a search wizard for sample details and analytical results and linked it with aerial photographs from the GIS.

Policy and collaboration at regulatory level

Madeleine Berg, senior policy adviser, Contaminated Land Scottish Government said her roles included stakeholder engagement, supporting ministers, and doing site specific work and policy development.

The Scottish Government chaired two meetings of the Contaminated Land Advisory Group in 2023, a mix of regulators, government, and special interest groups. At the last minuted meeting, the group agreed that some aspects of PAN 33 need updating including reference to climate change and sustainability, future-proofing, and improving links to the water environment. They agreed it is important to ensure contaminated land is dealt with during planning. Remediation should be incentivised in the wording making benefits tangible.

Berg said that the Planning Advice Note (PAN33) is still valid and important but requires updating to incorporate priorities of the new National Planning Framework (NPF4). There is a commitment from the chief planner to update all planning notes in time and CLAG will likely be able to feed into review of PAN33 when it happens.

The group heard that most local authorities have a close working relationship with their planners and tend to interact well. However, there are differences on when, and at what stage, Environmental Health engages. The relationship with building standards is more varied with some LAs interacting well and others finding it challenging.

The group identified a key priority was that of the application of Land Contamination Risk Management (LCRM) in Scotland. The technical risk assessment guidance is currently not officially adopted in Scotland and that it would be helpful to set up a group to review the document and clarify its use in Scotland (including where legislation / guidance differs). A CLAG regulator sub-group is progressing this, and working towards a consensus and how it applies.

Berg said: "While LCRM is not currently formally adopted for use within Scotland due to an ongoing review of certain divergences in regulatory policy and terminology, SEPA considers it to present good practice guidance on the approach to the assessment of potential land contamination constraints. This guidance can be used where it is demonstrated to be appropriate for site specifics and the relevant regulatory regime(s). If you are unsure regarding the application of any aspects of this guidance, please refer to your regulator."

It agreed to have further discussion specifically around Human Health Risk Assessment and potential action for CLAG to review building standards guidance, communications between building standards, planners and environmental health teams, verification reports.

Berg said that the interactions between Building Standards verifiers, contaminated land officers, in developments going through planning were being explored. She said it was important to ensure land contamination issues are factored into the building warrant process. Ideas for training and improving communications are being taken forward. Work is currently underway with the Building Standards Hub and the Building Standards Technical Unit of the Scottish Government over a new centralised delivery model.

On waste exemptions and soil recycling, Berg asked how do we ensure soil recycling can take place sustainably without creating new contamination issues? She said that SEPA colleagues have updated us on changes to the process of ‘exemptions registration’ to permit application.

There are current opportunities to feed in contaminated land perspectives to two consultations in particular: Environmental Authorisations (Scotland) Regulations 2018: Proposed types of authorisation for Waste, Water, and Industrial activities from SEPA and Scotland's draft Circular Economy and Waste Route Map to 2030 - consultation - Scottish Government.

Berg said there are minor changes to Contaminated Land (Scotland) Regulations coming up including a change in criteria to identify ‘special sites’ and a change from identifying specific groundwater aquifers, to a broader definition. The aim is to allow SEPA to use their expertise to protect a wider range of water resources.

Mine gas risk

Collaboration among local authorities and the government was also (a) a theme in the talk from Dr. Tom Henman, director RSK Geosciences and SiLC. He talked about findings of a Scottish Government Research Project.

 RSK originally completed a research report for the Scottish Government in April 2021. It originated from the Gorebridge incident where 22 individuals needed hospital treatment for excess CO2 from an old mine. The latest work - Scottish Government mine gas research report includes subsequent changes including NPF4 and the CL:AIRE mine gas guidance.

The previous Scottish Government mine gas research report (2019) recommended that PAN 33 should be updated to make reference to key issues relating to mine gas and relevant standards and guidance to be followed. In the absence of an update to PAN 33, the EPS (2019) guidance and LA-specific guidance should be updated to cover mine gas issues specifically.

Twenty-two local authorities were consulted, and survey questions covered: the use of standard and model planning conditions, perception of staff competence on mine gas risks and design of gas protection measures, use of external peer review support, training needs and verification.

The 2024 report recommends the Building Standards Technical Handbooks (domestic and non-domestic) need to be updated to cover mine gas (and wider ground gas issues). Additional training of EHO/ CLO and Building Standards on mine gas issues should be undertaken to increase competency in peer reviews of submitted reports. And an approved register should be developed of suitably qualified and experienced consultants to undertake external peer review of mine gas related reports, for example through the Scotland Excel engineering and technical consultancy framework.

The report examined how gas risk is regulated under planning and building control regimes in Scotland. One of the key aims was to identify and develop good practice to achieve a scientifically robust and consistent approach to the risks posed by mine gas to development. The project involved extensive consultation with staff from 22 of the 23 authorities involved.

The report concluded that agreed roles and responsibilities are needed along with good working relationships between all disciplines. An effective and consistent method of screening applications for mine gas based on access to Coal Authority and local authority data is needed and a shared document management system and GIS should be used.

There should be joint and consistent peer reviews of reports submitted under planning and for Building Warrant requirements and an emphasis on the importance of the review of BS8485 design reports and verification reports by appropriately competent persons.

A proposed process has been developed for good practice to be adopted across all 23 local authorities affected. This is supported by an example peer review template for gas related reports.

The report concluded that updates to planning and building standards guidance are needed to cover mine gas (and ground gas more widely).

Combined Electric Resistive Heating (ERH) and Multi Phase Extraction (MPE)

Andrew Morgan senior remediation consultant Geosyntec Consultants talked on the first application of a Combined Electric Resistive Heating (ERH) and Multi Phase Extraction (MPE) Remedy.

The site was near Eindhoven and the remediation area estimated at 900m2 and 8,000m3 predominantly of fractured bedrock. Key remediation objectives were to reduce soil Trichloroethylene (TCE) concentrations from 200-300mg/kg to < 5mg/l, show TCE betterment and provide multiple lines of evidence verifying ERH treatment does not adversely affect proximal sensitive receptors.

Traditional technologies like In Situ Chemical Oxidation (ISCO) looked difficult in relation to remedial goals in the fractured bedrock. The thermal alternative approach was considered Best Available Technology (BAT) by the project team and regulator.

In conclusion the combined MPE and ERH successfully addressed regulator concerns, including vapour / hot groundwater migration, and achieved site objectives. The combined approach did not adversely affect ERH performance, and the estimated timeframe was maintained.

Morgan concluded by saying operating MPE and ERH in parallel requires continual performance assessment and optimisation to achieve "balance" between both systems. The performance data collected from ERH and MPE, verified the pre-remediation CSM and allowed for re-assessment of long-term monitoring requirements downgradient.


The post-Covid world with less direct funding from government and private sources appeared to be a damaging blow to investigating, remediating, and regenerating sites. But the mood of collaboration and breaking down barriers combined with increasing improvements and speed of sampling and breakthroughs in handling data is going a long way to overcome the challenges.

This event was sponsored by Groundsure, Landmark, Ribble Enviro/VaporPin, Naue, Normec DETS, Huesker, HBB, Geoshield, Igne, Juta, ERS, Proctor Group and Envirotreat and supported by SiLC, the British Drilling Association, BPF and REHIS.

Report on Evaluating Remediation Benefits Through Natural Capital from Darren Bierro, principal geoscientist, British Geological Survey and Yolande Macklin, senior associate director, land quality at Jacobs can be accessed via the link below.