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Desktop Study FAQs


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Phase III Study - Remediation method Statement

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Phase I Desktop Study FAQs


What is a Desktop Study?

A Contaminated Land Phase I Desktop Study is designed to provide an initial assessment of the potential risks posed to site users and the environment from possible contamination or pollution caused by any previous or current site land uses.


What does a Desktop Study consist of?

A desk study should contain:

  • A description of the site’s location and layout 
  • A description of the site’s present and intended future use 
  • A description of the site’s environmental setting; geology and hydrogeology, hydrology, surrounding environmentally protected sites 
  • A description of the site’s and it’s vicinity’s land use history, incorporating any history of ground working/infilling
  • The above record based information should be supplemented by information gathered during a walkover; including local anecdotal knowledge 
  • Preparation of an initial conceptual site model; identifying possible sources of contamination; present/future receptors at risk from the potential contamination; and pathways linking the two. 
  • An example of a source could be a leaking heating oil tank, 
  • An example of a pathway could be ingestion of soil, 
  • An example of a receptor could be a future site occupant, or a nearby river.

Why would I require a Desktop Study?

The most common reason for being asked for a Desktop Study is to form part of a planning application for new development or change of use. However other more specific instances may include:
  • Request by Building Control
  • To support other land investigations; geotechnical, ecological, archaeological
  • Land sales/purchases (divestment)
  • Land liability management
  • Environmental permitting
  • In response to an environmental incident
Can I write my own Desktop Study?

Whilst there is no specific qualification enabling you to write your own desk study, you will need to demonstrate to the person receiving it a certain level of competency in undertaking them.


Who will assemble a Desktop Study?

As a consequence, these are ultimately produced by specialists in land contamination.

SES have a team of competent consultants dealing with Contaminated Land having a minimum of 10 years of experience.

How long does a Desktop Study take?

SES will provide a final report within 5 working days, following receipt of instruction to carry out the works.


How much does a Desktop Study cost?

Depending upon the size of the site, environmental/land use sensitivity and complexity of the site’s history, prices for a Phase I Contaminated Land Desktop Study should be in the order of £1000 - £1500. Prices for desk studies received in the order of £500 are likely to include the purchase of inadequate source information and not include a site walkover. This seriously limits the reliability of the study, and is unlikely to be accepted by the Regulator without further work.

I've submitted a Desktop Study what next?

Depending upon the findings of the study, the study alone may be sufficient to discharge the contaminated land planning condition on sites with no previous contaminative land use and low environmental sensitivity e.g. if the site had always been undeveloped countryside. Otherwise intrusive works incorporating soil/groundwater/gas sampling will be recommended, the scope of which needing to be agreed with the appropriate regulator.


For further information please do not hesitate to contact a member of the SES team on 01279 873354.