The SiLC Register was launched as a consequence of the work of the Urban Task Force which recognised the need for competent people to work in a sector that embraces many different disciplines. The Register includes professionals from the broad range of backgrounds that advise on land condition matters and provides evidence of competence in this field. After 20 years it continues to this day, and this is testimony to the need for and value delivered by the Register.
The Urban Task Force was established in 1998 by then Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and chaired by Lord Rogers. Members were chosen for their expertise in the many elements which are necessary for an urban renaissance including sustainable development, urban design and urban regeneration. Its purpose was to identify the causes of urban decline and to establish a vision for our cities, founded on the principles of design excellence, economic strength, social wellbeing and environmental responsibility within appropriate delivery, fiscal and legal frameworks. At the time there was a Government target for 60% of new homes to be built on previously developed (aka brownfield) land.
The report from this taskforce, entitled Towards an Urban Renaissance was published in 1999 with over 100 recommendations which included the identification of the benefits of greater consistency in the handling of information on land contamination. It recommended the introduction of standard documentation describing the condition of the land, with the purpose of ensuring that during the sale, purchase and development of land, all parties had access to the same data sets and could therefore develop some general agreement between them on the levels of risk associated with that particular site or that particular use.
This concept was further developed by a working group chaired by Phil Kirby of BG Properties. Members of the working Group included Phil Crowcroft and Hugh Mallett. The working group also concluded that it would be essential to set up a qualification in order to sign off this standard documentation. The Specialist in Land Condition (SiLC) Register was therefore established in 2000 focused on setting high standards in the industry.
Mike Summersgill recalls that “Judith Lowe, who was technical co-ordinator for the working group, decided to put together a group of people, one from each Professional Institution and the AGS, to formulate an examination method to verify (by peer review, as still done now) those people that could ‘sign off’ the standard document. There were 6 grandparents, chartered professionals, including Judith Lowe, Peter Braithwaite (ICE), Paul Syms (RICS), Hugh Mallett (AGS), Colette Grundy (RSChem) and myself (CIWEM).
There was a pilot examination, with the above six being the Panel of Assessors; 13 people sat the exam, all passed. Those passing included, Phil Crowcroft, Doug Laidler, Jonathan Steeds and Peter Witherington. The next examination was in January 2002, with 13 passing including Roger Clark and Paul Nathanail. In June 2002, another 18 people passed including Padraig Daly and Claire Dickinson, bringing the total to 50 including the 6 grandparents. During that initial exam process, we identified those candidates who might be Assessors, so by early 2002 we had 10 more Assessors. In late 2002 they examined three of the six grandparents and verified us as SiLCs.”
From the inception of SiLC it has been administered by a Professional and Technical Panel (PTP) consisting of professional and technical representatives from each of the supporting professional institutions and the AGS, plus one or two co-opted members who provide a specific input to the PTP. The secretariat for the scheme is Forum Court Associates who were appointed in March 2015.
In 2011 Specialist in Land Condition Register Limited was established with a board of directors comprising representatives from the institutions and the AGS. The purpose was to protect the liability of those individuals who give their time and energy to managing the qualification process and to provide a higher-level approval process regarding the financial stability of SiLC and other key decisions recommended by the PTP.
To become a SiLC it is necessary to pass an open book exam and an interview to demonstrate that a candidate meets the SiLC Criteria. SiLC are also the accreditation body in respect of Suitably Qualified Persons (SQPs) under the National Quality Mark Scheme (NQMS) promoted by the National Brownfield Forum (formerly the Land Forum). Passing the SiLC exam and interview, and a NQMS specific test, enables a candidate to also become an SQP. Chartership is a prerequisite for both. Hugh Mallet leads the exam sub-group who prepare each set of questions for the exam covering technical, legislation and formal guidance issues. Each year there are a number of Introduction Days around the country to explain the process of the exam. These events are mainly prepared and presented by Peter Witherington and Hugh Mallett.
There are now 195 SiLCs and 116 SQPs with another 7 candidates sitting the 2020a exam. It is true to say that the number of applications to become SiLC/SQP has increased in recent years since the launch of the NQMS. This underlies the determination of the profession to aspire to higher standards in the outputs they produce and to recognise the benefits of qualifications that demonstrate capability and quality.
The SiLC Affiliate Scheme was launched in 2018 and is intended to assist graduates, as well as more experienced individuals, to follow an integrated process towards full membership of a professional body and chartered status with the assistance of a professional body adviser, and then progress towards SiLC/SQP registration with the assistance of a SiLC mentor.
In January 2020 the Directors of SiLC Register Limited elected Roger Clark as Chair of the Board of Directors to succeed Phil Crowcroft who was Chair of the Board from 2011 to 2019 and Chair of the PTP from 2008 to 2017. The Board also elected Dr Paul Nathanail as Deputy Chair of the Board with the intention that Paul will succeed Roger as chair in two years’ time. The SiLC PTP is currently chaired by Ian Evans who in March 2020 succeeded Paul Burden (2017 to 2020).
In a recent interview published in the AGS eMagazine Phil Crowcroft said “SiLC delivers confidence that an individual has core competence in their own subject area whilst recognising and appreciating the parallel skills which are needed to deliver the reclamation and redevelopment of brownfield sites.” The dedication, hard work and leadership by Phil have brought SiLC as far as it has come today and the SiLC Register will always be grateful to him.
Looking Forward and Thanks
A big thanks to those mentioned in this article who have contributed to the success of SiLC over the last 20 years. Members of the Board, PTP and the SiLC Assessors are individuals who give their time and effort free of charge. Special thanks go to Doug Laidler who was one of the first Pilot SiLCs (8th). Doug sadly passed away in December 2019; he was a hugely respected professional consultant working on land contamination matters for many years and was the secretary of SAGTA.
SiLC looks forward to another 20 years of championing good quality in land condition.
Written by Grace Hawkins, SiLC Secretariat
SiLC and Affiliate Scheme application forms can be downloaded from https://www.silc.org.uk/application/becoming-a-silc/. Information on the NQMS can be obtained from www.claire.co.uk/nqms.