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The main points from the discussions are listed below.

Re-using Vacant and Derelict Land

Facilitator: David Stewart, Policy and Practice Lead, Scottish Land Commission

  • Discussion on re-use of VDL, whether the recommendations of the VDL Task Force and subsequent changes to Scottish Government policy and funding have made it easier to re- use VDL. Are there any particular challenges or opportunities?
  • Policy on brownfield land reuse could be clearer but also more flexible – there needs to be a way to look at the bigger picture benefits of regeneration and decontamination rather than a focus on strict rules on one site. The impact tool presented by BGS and Jacobs could help.
  • Scope for local authorities/public bodies to do more work to de-risk sites for developers and take a partnership approach.
  • Concern that the private developer model (quick decisions, quick turnover of site for profit) doesn’t match well with the nature of VDL re-use which is long term and requires patient capital.
  • There is a view that institutional investors will fund VDL re-use but they need engagement and commitment from planning authority (issue with austerity/resources).
  • Greater transparency and sharing of information of VDL key to reuse (searchable GIS map of VDL being developed by Scottish Government and the Improvement Service to be launched later this year should help).
  • Question of lead and responsibility – is it fair to assume that the public sector and local authorities should de-risk sites. What about CSR for investors/developers?
  • What is the role of tax incentives?

Developing Partnerships and Collaborative Working to Add Value and Maximise Outcomes

Facilitator: Hannah Swanson, Senior Business Consultant, SEPA

  • Match different viewpoints and expertise with the work.
  • Shortage of skills.
  • Need shared understanding in decision making processes. Stakeholders need to be involved early.
  • Challenges – everyone has different timescales and priorities.
  • Funding is a challenge. Can lose buy in.
  • Revenue funding is tricky with long term maintenance.
  • Route into engagement is challenging. With voluntary remediation – local authorities may not have the resources to engage.
  • Enablers – early engagement manage expectations. Start small so can grow organically – ownership as it grows.
  • Trust needed which can grow over time.
  • Procurement processes – rules and timescales can be a barrier.

Better Aligning Brownfield Remediation & Development with Climate & Sustainability Goals

Facilitator: Ian McLellan, Associate Dean and Programme Leader, Waste & Resource, University of West of Scotland

  • Sustainable development goals are too high a level for what we are trying to do on the ground.
  • The focus is on economic return, rather than social or environmental power – and that comes down to funding.
  • Joined up thinking: all different aspects – targets can all be at odds from different perspectives.
  • Can do better with remediation – and better site practice - does the soil have to go off site when can it be used onsite?
  • The right trees have to be planted in the right place. With climate change and rewilding – right trees for now may not be in 40 years’ time.
  • Local authorities want us to rewild. What are their priorities? Who owns the land?
  • How do we monetise social and environmental benefits?
  • We are focusing on the economic and not societal and environmental factors.

Improving Confidence in Hydrogeological Site Characterisation

Facilitator: Isla Small, Principal Hydrogeologist, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency 

  • Focused on realities and what we’d like to do against practicable budgets and timescales.
  • Talked on winning work and retaining it through the project life cycle.
  • Phasing investigation is good scientifically but not always practicable in commercial realities.
  • Site characterisation – options possible on big projects but they don’t scale down to smaller sites.
  • Downhole techniques to characterise different horizons.
  • In site monitoring for temporal trends – but hard to implement on smaller sites. Any economies of scale for smaller sites need to be considered.
  • Challenges of borehole design: Boreholes often are not optimised if inherited from other jobs.
  • It is important to understand design and constraints to justify design and sample techniques.
  • Important to do basic integrity checks if older boreholes or someone else’s.
  • To ensure greater confidence in the data do due diligence – justify your choices and make the best of your data with the time and money you have.

Effectively Managing and Analysing the Plethora of Data Available on a Site and Knowing How Best to Use it to Make Decisions

Facilitator: Stuart Telfer, Operations Director, Groundsure

  • Wide range of participants - regulators, consultants, land, and solution providers – all used data.
  • Concluded that the system isn’t broken but can use it more efficiently.
  • Roadblock – how to ensure quality of data is appropriate.
  • There are  planning constraints and budgets. Trusting in data doesn’t work.
  • Need to use data more efficiently in a standardised form.
  • The client looks at it one way. The regular the other – so need a simple standardised approach.
  • Touched on AI and checklists to check data and authorisation frameworks.

Improving Community & Stakeholder Engagement & Risk Communication

Facilitator: Roslyn McIntosh, Contaminated Land Officer Inverclyde Council

  • Experiences of various scenarios we encounter and develop a communications strategy to each scenario.
  • Remedial product design – reliability important for customer confidence.
  • Need protocols to adapt to the environment.
  • Can have to justify the need to remediate.
  • With land transformation projects – risk comms is only a part of discussions.
  • Can be increasing expectations when engaging with communities at various levels and risks involved.
  • Certain sites are sensitive – need to find words and actions in a clear non-technical way.
  • It helps empower the community to tell them about what’s happening.
  • Risks have to be communicated to potential investors.
  • Engagement is an integral part of the operation. Employees should be part of comms from the outset.
  • Consultation process – requires submissions. Rarely see a risk communication in a non-technical format for users.
  • Stakeholder identification process. Use a core group to help develop comms strategy.
  • Site visits and Mori surveys are useful.
  • Multimedia can raise awareness.
  • Appoint a professional – they may have ideas you never thought of.
  • Use the UK Social Value engagement indicator.
  • Can be miscommunication from trusted sources. Need demonstration of competence to increase confidence. Independent peer review looking at remedial solutions can be useful.
  • With content – community response is unpredictable.
  • Increase the level of Information available as is needed by the community.
  • Need transparent communications with technical content appropriate and quality checked before issued.
  • Prove to the community you are listening.
  • Are you considering fairness, rights equalities and GDPR?
  • Engage community representatives, councillors, and partners to engage with the wider community.
  • Help avoid making assumptions. Sometimes communities are more interested in social behaviour. Open proactive dialogue. Alternative decisions may need to be made.
  • Protection of staff when things go wrong – if named in local media – need a support team. Regeneration projects go on for years With Freedom of Information requests and comments from media –need a team.
  • Make sure your rights when dealing with harassment and slander.

Improving Biodiversity on Brownfield Sites to Meet Planning & Sustainability Objectives

Suzanne Burgess, Development Manager, Buglife

  • Mosaic habitats – few knew what it meant and why it is good for biodiversity.
  • Talked about some of the projects Buglife have done on brownfields in Falkirk and Sterling.
  • Changed perceptions of how people view brownfield sites compared with wildlife sites. Brownfield is not a nice word compared with wildlife.
  • Previously used Google and aerial street views of Derelict Land Register to find mosaic habitats – but need more funding.
  • Differences in England and Scotland. How do we incentivise developers to get Biodiversity Net Gain?
  • Example of developer creating rain gardens – but the houses were sold at an increased price.
  • Sometimes council plans for housing are not what the community wants.
  • Leaving part of the site for wildlife sometimes doesn’t work as wildlife gets disturbed by construction.