Sustainable soil management 'could cut costs'

The construction industry can save money and help the environment by signing up to voluntary soil management rules, Government has said.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) last week launched a consultation on a voluntary code of practice for sustainable use of soils on construction sites.

Jonathan Shaw, landscape and rural affairs minister, said: "Soil is a vulnerable resource and is vital for food production and supporting habitats and wildlife.

"We are seeking views from the construction industry on a proposed code of practice which includes measures like confining traffic movement to designated routes to avoid soil damage and correctly stockpiling soils to maintain soil structure.

"I hope that many businesses will see the financial and environmental benefits of adopting such a code."

The code of practice aims to preserve soil resources in the face of contamination and drainage problems.

The consultation opened just a month after consultation closed on the draft Soil Strategy for England, which describes the pressures on the country's soils, policies for sustainable soil management and action to be taken in coming years.

The code of practice will help preserve soils from the impact of industry, it says.

These include spillage contamination, chemical use and the impact of sealing soils with impermeable materials affecting its ability to store and filter water.

By following the proposed code, it says construction firms will not only boost soils and help the environment but save money.

Poor soil management can cause problems such as inadequate drainage and site flooding, which ultimately increases business costs.

Proposed measures in the code include soil resources surveys on site before construction starts, and a soil management plan to show areas and types of soils to be stripped away, haulage routes and the type of soil in each stockpile.

It also advocates confining traffic to designated routes, keeping soil storage periods as short as possible and making sure all soil to be used for gardens or habitat creation is in good condition with enough air, drainage and root growth.

The consultation documents and the proposed code of practice can be found here.

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