Posts by Ciaran Jennings

News Contaminated Land

Panel debate on Asbestos in soil

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Understanding the risks posed by Asbestos in soil will be explored  through a panel discussion that brings together Dr Richard Ogden (co-author of CIRIA’s C733 document) and members of the AGS Contaminated Land Working Group. The panel debate will take place during AGS Members’ Day, on 18 March and is scheduled for 3.30pm.

Dr Ogden will be giving a presentation to put the discussion in context and introduce the known issues and inferred risks surrounding the presence of asbestos in soils. These include topics such as the risks on construction sites during and post works, what laboratory tests are required and the international effort to understand the soil-air relationship.

Following this presentation AGS Chairman Seamus Lefroy-Brookes,  Chris Swainston, Steve Moreby, and Contaminated Land Working Group chairman Neil Parry will join Dr Ogden to discuss the issues.


Report Data Management

Data Management Group Report – 19 February 2015

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Jackie Bland, Chair, Data Management Group writes:

Following our split of the committee to focus ourselves on both the Format and the marketing of the format, we have had one meeting which was entirely focussed on Ground Modelling / AGSi.

Ground Modelling – AGSi

AGS ground model objectives

  • Transfer of derived data
  • Contain only the content of geotechnical investigation report (GIR) – as defined by BS5930 / EC7
  • Characteristic values (GDR) not in scope
  • Purpose of interpretation must be clear


  • Publish as AGS4.1 (for public consultation) – as AGS format CSV
  • Develop and publish an XML version
    • Consider including GML
    • Release as beta version (2016-17)
    • Publish as AGS5 alongside a CSV version (2020)
  • Interface with other projects – BGS/Keynetix
    • Liaise with BuildingSmart / IFC class – open dialog with committee to establish method to progress collaboration

Conference at Geotechnica in July 2015

Julian Lovell has very kindly offered us a 2 hour slot at the exhibition which we will use as a marketing/educational opportunity for AGS4, BS8574, BIM and a workshop for AGS4i.

AGS Website

Following on from the last AGS main committee meeting in November, the website redevelopment will not include any change to the AGS Format web-pages. Instead, it will be left in its current state as a sub-site of the main website. Hilary Derbyshire will continue to maintain the pages (providing she doesn’t retire!) until more funding can be found to move it to the new platform.

Article Loss Prevention

When is a financial cap likely to be an effective cap?

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Elvanite Full Circle Limited v AMEC Earth & Environmental (UK) Ltd [2013] EWHC 1191

Article by Sarah McNeill, Griffiths & Armour Professional Risks

The decision in Ampleforth Abbey Trust v Turner & Townsend was reviewed in a previous newsletter under the heading when is a financial cap not a cap?’ as an example of a consultant’s cap on liability being unenforceable. Is that always going to be the case? Should consultants cease to raise the subject of liability caps when negotiating contract terms? Certainly not. The more recent decision in Elvanite reflects much more positively the very real financial value of limitation and exclusion clauses – provided that they successfully satisfy the applicable tests.

Elvanite, a demolition and recycling contractor, brought a claim against AMEC, its professional consultant, for breach of contract. AMEC were alleged to have failed to submit a planning application before the deadline stipulated in their services agreement.

A buyer had agreed to purchase the site from Elvanite subject to a condition that planning permission had been obtained prior to the date of transfer. Elvanite brought a claim against AMEC for consequential losses when the purchaser pulled out of the proposed deal due to planning permission not having been obtained within the expected period. AMEC denied the allegations and counterclaimed against Elvanite for its outstanding professional fees.

At trial the Judge found against Elvanite on the facts, and from that point onwards the above clauses were unimportant. However, he thenhelpfully went on to discuss how those clauses fared under UCTA in the given circumstances and whether therefore they would have been enforceable in principle.

The Defence

Amongst other arguments in its defence, AMEC sought to rely on various exclusion clauses included in its standard terms and conditions, namely that:

  1. AMEC would not be responsible for any consequential, indirect or incidental losses.
  2. The total liability of AMEC would be limited to the total fee received by AMEC or £50,000, whichever was less.
  3. All claims would be deemed to have been relinquished unless ‘filed’ within one year of the substantial completion of the Services.

Elvanite contended that that these clauses were ‘unreasonable’ and therefore unenforceable under the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 (UCTA).

At trial the Judge found against Elvanite on the facts, and from that point onwards the above clauses were unimportant. However, he then helpfully went on to discuss how those clauses fared under UCTA in the given circumstances and whether therefore they would have been enforceable in principle.

Test of Reasonableness

The court considered whether the clauses were in fact ’fair and reasonable’ pursuant to section 11(1) and Schedule 2 of UCTA. Mr Justice Coulson took as his starting point the statement of Chadwick LJ in Watford Electronics v Sanderson CFL Limited[1] that the court should not interfere in an agreement negotiated by ‘experienced businessmen representing substantial companies of equal bargaining power’. This he believed was ‘the best judge on the question whether the terms of the agreement are reasonable’.

Here both parties were indeed ‘relatively substantial’. Whilst AMEC was a subsidiary of a much larger group of companies, it was held that this did not make any difference to the parties’ commercial standing. It was of critical importance that both parties were of equal bargaining power and that there was no evidence that Elvanite had not known what it was agreeing to – more than once they had been sent AMEC’s terms and conditions and had raised no objections. (This is an important difference to the situation in Ampleforth Abbey Trust v Turner & Townsend (see below) where a change to the consultant’s standard terms and conditions imposing a new limitation clause was not brought to the client’s attention.)

As a result, all three limitation clauses were found to be ‘reasonable’ for the purposes of UCTA.


AMEC argued that the loss of profit claimed by Elvanite constituted consequential or indirect damage and that the losses claimed by Elvanite were therefore excluded.

Coulson J considered that ‘indirect damages’ referred to losses recoverable under the second limb[1] of Hadley v Baxendale[1]. AMEC had undertaken to use reasonable skill and care in its completion of the planning application for Elvanite, and therefore any loss of profit was indirect because it was conditional upon Elvanite having agreed to sell the site to a third party on specific terms.

AMEC was not aware that Elvanite was the owner of the site until after the appointment had been concluded. For that reason, the court considered that on this basis, it was also considered that the indirect losses claimed by Elvanite would have been too remote to be recoverable regardless of the exclusion clause.


AMEC argued that it had been paid £13,987 for its services and therefore that its liability was limited to this sum.


The court acknowledged that it is common for companies providing professional services to limit their liability by reference to pre-determined sums, usually the value of the fee or the limit of any relevant insurance policy. Coulson J referred to the decision in Ampleforth Abbey Trust v Turner and Townsend [2012][1] in which a limit of liability was held to be unreasonable on the basis of the ‘stark disparity’ between the purported £111,000 liability cap and the PI insurance requirement of £10M. AMEC on the other hand were not bound by any such insurance obligation in this case.


The court, therefore, concluded that the term was not unreasonable and that AMEC’s total liability would not have exceeded the amount paid by Elvanite for the services.



AMEC also sought to rely on the clause stating that all claims by Elvanite would be deemed to have been relinquished unless filed within one year after the subsequent completion of the Services.

Coulson J observed that ‘the parties to a contract can vary the statutory six year limitation period’, reinforcing the decision in Inframatrix Investments Limited v Dean Construction Limited[1] that the statutory rules can be superseded by agreement.

However, AMEC nearly fell foul of rather loose drafting in this clause. They no doubt had intended to bar any proceedings issued at court more than one year after they had substantially completed their services – but this clause referred to ‘filing’, which is an unusual word to find in this context. The Judge determined that since claims are issued and not ‘filed’ this must have been a reference to serving a formal Letter of Claim. Elvanite had sent a letter notifying

AMEC of its claim within the limitation period, but the letter did not comply with the Pre-Action Protocol. Accordingly Elvanite’s claim was deemed to have been ‘relinquished’ under the terms of this provision.


While technically ‘obiter’ and thus not binding, the comments of Coulson J are a useful guide as to how the courts approach exclusion and limitation clauses and are a reminder that when clearly and carefully drafted a consultant can effectively rely upon them.

What is especially important to note here was the significance placed on the equal bargaining power of each of the parties and the court’s reluctance to intervene with contractual limitations when this is the case. Where the parties are on an equal commercial footing limitation provisions are much more likely to be regarded by a court as being reasonable for the purposes of UCTA than in cases where one party is clearly in a dominant commercial position over the other.

Both Ampleforth Abbey and Elvanite were decided on their specific facts and do not create new law. They are, however, useful reminders of long-standing principles of contractual formation and interpretation, particularly the need for clear and unambiguous language and the need to bring any unusual or onerous clauses to the other party’s attention.

On a final note, it is also worth remembering that having successfully negotiated a liability cap in an agreement, it is then critically important to check the rest of the document for potentially inconsistent terms.


  1. [2001] 1 All ER (Comm) 696
  2. Damages for breach of contract are recoverable under two limbs under Hadley v Baxendale: (i) Damages which may fairly and reasonably be considered as arising naturally from the breach; and (ii) Damages which may reasonably be supposed to have been in the contemplation of the parties at the time that the contract was formed as being the likely result of breach
  3. [1854] EWHC Exch J70
  4. The Trustees of Ampleforth Abbey Trust v Turner & Townsend Project Management Limited [2012] EWHC 2137 (TCC)
  5. [2012] EWCA Civ 64



AGS Members’ Day – March 2015

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9.30am – 16.30pm, Wednesday 18th March 2015

Royal Geological Society, 
1 Kensington Gore, London SW7 2AR

AGS Members day incorporates our AGM and will feature a number of presentations on the issues that are front of mind for the geotechnical and geoenvironmental industry.

This year’s programme includes a panel discussion on Asbestos and the issues it raises within the practice area of managing the risks for contaminated land. Presentations will also be given on the “Ground Investigation Requirements for HS2” and “Educating Consultants on Laboratory Testing”.

The full programme can be download here –  AGS Members’ Day programe A4 FINAL


News Data Management

Do you have AGS data format questions?

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The AGS data format comprises  a dictionary of codes denoting different categories and types of data commonly used in the geotechnical and geoenvironmental industry. Through it different software applications can exchange information allowing, for example, site investigation data to be passed from a contractor to consultant to client.

The data format is evolving all the time, so if you have a question, want to learn more or as an experienced user wish to submit a code for consideration to the working group please visit the AGS Data Format Microsite here.


Article Loss Prevention

Depositing geotechnical records with the BGS

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The British Geological Survey (BGS) collects borehole records, borehole materials and site investigation reports which are maintained by the National Geoscience Data Centre (NGDC). The Survey has statutory rights of access to information and samples from certain mineral exploration and water supply boreholes. The BGS also welcomes donations of information from anywhere in Great Britain in various formats, including analogue, digital and material collections. If digital files are available these are preferred, and in particular in AGS format data.

The AGS supports the aims of the BGS and encourages its members and their clients to donate their geological records, particularly where in AGS data transfer format in order to propagate its use, to the benefit of member companies, industry and for the general public good.

Most of the collections are part of the public record and are made available through a not-for-profit cost enquiry service, and scanned copies of borehole logs can be accessed for free using the BGS website’s GeoIndex. If specified on the BGS standard deposition form, data can be held as commercial-in-confidence for 4 years before it becomes open-file. Special arrangements need to be made with the BGS for longer periods.

It is therefore important that the ownership of the information itself and that of the copyright and other intellectual property rights must be clearly established before data is deposited, and the AGS recommends that members and their clients discuss this issue at an early stage in the commission. It is recommended that members ask their clients to confirm in writing that the member can donate the records to the BGS at the end of the commission. Alternatively, members could include in their standard conditions a clause stating the information will be donated to the BGS on the due date for payment of their final invoice unless otherwise informed in writing by their client.

The BGS offers advice and guidance about clearing intellectual property rights including copyright. Further information can be obtained from the BGS website

The Loss Prevention Working Group of the AGS is collecting the experiences, comments and views of its members and their clients on the submission of information to, or the requesting of information from, the BGS and whether they have submitted or requested information in AGS format. Please contact the AGS at


Fairer AGS subscription model

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As you may be aware, the AGS has been significantly restructured to suit the demands of today’s members, and to ensure that it continues to play a central key role in improving our industry for the future. At the AGS AGM of 19th March 2014, the AGS Byelaws relating to membership were changed[1] and there are now only 3 classes of membership:

  1. Member,
  2. Affiliate,
  3. Personal Member.

To become a full AGS Member, you need to either be a Practitioner or employ one full-time Practitioner;

Definition of Practitioner: for the purposes of AGS membership, a Practitioner shall be actively practising as a geotechnical or geoenvironmental specialist, and will comply via one of the following minima criteria:

  1. a RoGEP – Professional grade;
  2. a Chartered Member or equivalent of the Institution of Civil Engineers, The Geological Society of London, The Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, The Royal Society of Chemists, or other appropriate Institution approved by the AGS Membership Panel, with a minimum of 5 years’ relevant post-graduate experience; or
  3. 15 years’ relevant experience minimum if not chartered as in 1 (E) (i) or (ii) above, coupled with the ability to demonstrate a long-term, high level of commitment, dedication and professionalism to the industry.

As AGS Members employ from 1 – 500 practitioners, 14 subscription ‘bands’ have been created, to ensure a more equable subscription system.

Members should have received a letter in the post with full information listed.

The AGS would like to thank you for your continued support and to remind you that the AGS is a not-for-profit organisation and your subscription goes entirely towards the running of the organisation.

Full information was listed that Members should have received in the post, but if you’d like any further clarification, please email


Report Laboratories

Laboratories Working Group Report

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John Powell, Chairman, Laboratories Working Group writes:

The meeting had 8 member attendees  and 7 apologies.

BSI Committee B/526/3

Revision of BS5930: Section 8- Laboratory Testing on Samples

The public consultation is now complete with around 1000 comments being received (many just editorial) with only about half a dozen of these being for the Labs section. Publication is anticipated later this year.

Future of BS 1377 and CEN TC 341 WG6

WG6 had progressed well –

  • Parts 1 (Water Content) and 2 (Density Tests) – both were published worldwide on 31/12/2014, in the UK as BS EN ISO 17892-1 and BS EN ISO 17892-2.
  • The corresponding parts of BS1377: Part 2 (Clauses 3.2 and 7 respectively) will be withdrawn by 30/06/2015. UKAS has issued a memo relating to these two tests. Labs that are accredited to the BS equivalents can have these added to their accreditation schedules by signing a self-declaration, rather than by application, fee and audit.
  • Parts 3 (Density of Solid Particles) and 4 (Particle Size Distribution) – are under final review taking into account public comments. It is expected they will be submitted for final formal vote within a month or so, and will be published around mid-year
  • Parts 5 (incremental oedometer) and 6 (fall cone) – are in public review now (BSI website until 18 April). Please take opportunity to comment.
  • Parts 7 (Unconfined Compression test on Fine Grained Soil), 8 (Unconsolidated Undrained Triaxial Test) & 9 (Consolidated Triaxial Compression Test on Water Saturated Soils) – are close to submission for public consultation, these are expected to be out during the second half of this year.
  • Parts 10 (Direct Sheer Test) & 11 (Determination of Permeability by Constant and Falling Head) and Part 12 (Determination of Atterberg Limits) – remain under review in WG6.

The AGS lab group are to considering if there any tests they would like to be standardised and brought to European level (and other AGS members are welcome to do the same via the Labs group).

An Introduction to Geotechnical Laboratory Testing for Routine Construction Projects

In reviewing the guide reference is made to “Selection of Geotechnical Soil Laboratory Testing” and the AGS Power Point presentation on “Ground Investigation Testing”. It was agreed that these also needed a detailed review.

The document “Selection of Geotechnical Soil Laboratory Testing” would need to be reviewed by a separate sub group of consultants and others and this would require approval from the Executive. John Powell agreed to raise it at the next Executive meeting on the 19th February 2015.

All to 3 documents to be reviewed together to ensure consistency.

Membership Drive for Laboratory Testing Organisations Only

John Powell announced the Executive had approved the proposed Laboratories Seminar. It was decided the seminar would be held in October, depending on venue availability and would be aimed towards clients and consultants educating them on what Laboratories can provide and the importance of sampling.

Proficiency testing

John Masters would be running a scheme in 2015. Test to be notified.


UKAS are reinstating the Construction Technical Committee and the AGS had been invited to contribute and has asked for volunteers. Kevyn Brooks advised he had been asked to be involved also and was happy to represent the AGS.

Report Safety

Safety Group Report

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Julian Lovell, Chairman, AGS Safety Working Group writes:

Below is the latest report from our Safety Group which this quarter has been tackling issues on guidance, the new CDM regulations and collaboration with the British Drilling Association (BDA).

AGS Safety Guidance

The working group has been working consistently to progress the guidance available to the industry. Progress has been steady throughout the year. Most guidance goes through two if not three reviews which effectively means 3 to 6 months from initial draft and the most effective reviews are carried out by the committee either in a face to face meeting or on one occasion an on-line meeting.

Guidance which has been published since the last meeting:

  • Use of Scaffolding/Temporary Working Platform
  • Lifting Operations and Equipment used in Drilling Operations Guidance on CSCS Registration
  • Driving at Work

Guidance close to completion:

  • PPE
  • Manual Handling
  • Training and Competence
  • AGS Health and Safety Training Standards Health Surveillance


Currently all published guidance is freely available from the AGS website. The SWG has discussed this matter and believes that all of the safety guidance should be freely available in front of the member’s portal.

Where individual guidance links together we would like hyperlinks so that you can move between them. This should be part of the new website functionality specification. The web pages should have photographs and images and not just a list of links to guidance. The guidance will also be split into sections to try to make it easier to find what you want. Currently, we are waiting for the development of standard templates before we can provide further input to the new section within the new website.


The BDA has completed a new version of its Safety Manual and this is likely to be available digitally in the next month or so. Currently, they are deciding how and who it is distributed to but it is likely to be free to members. Unsure if it will be sold on the wider market.

There have also been ongoing discussions between the BDA and AGS regarding a closer working relationship. The AGS SWG has discussed on numerous occasions how much of an overlap there is and has offered to set up a joint working group. The BDA have reported back that they initially want to establish their own safety committee which has not met for over 12 months. They will then re-visit the idea of working with the AGS.

BDA have agreed to sponsor a session at Geotechnica which will be a Health and Safety session.

The BDA also spoke to the SWG about the BDA Audit. This scheme has been brought in to allow companies to assess the ongoing competence of the drill crews and to comply with BS 22475: Part 2. The auditee has to have already achieved the Land Drilling NVQ but this will look more closely in to how the driller is operating on site and complying with legislation, guidance and good practice. The BDA Training and Education Committee is currently working with Equipe to strengthen the Audit so that it requires the auditee to be able to prove a high standard of knowledge and application of both quality and safety. It is hoped that this will be linked in to the work to improve the current Land Drilling NVQs and in time to develop a Level 3 Advanced Lead Driller qualification.

Safety awareness and CSCS

The CSCS have been advised by the construction industry that there are too many loopholes in the CSCS card scheme. The CSCS card should represent the work activity being performed on site by that individual. The current clamp down has seen the requirement to attend a one day approved Health, Safety and Environmental awareness course if a GREEN labourer’s card is required. This is in addition to the CSCS touch screen test. Whilst this sounds initially like a good initiative to reduce the number of generic cards and promote training there are concerns. The concerns are that

  • it may lead to similar generic cards such as the WHITE Construction Related Operatives (CRO) card requiring something similar or being withdrawn
  • the promotion of generic Health and Safety training.
    The CRO card is commonly used across the geotechnical industry under the title Ground Specialist.New Standards BS EN 16228 – Drilling and foundation equipment.The new standard is seen to be the European wide requirements for rig guarding but they are actually a lot more detailed and cover all safety aspects of operating drilling equipment across sectors and rig types. Most organisations have still not looked to see if changes to UK practice or obligations on rig users or manufacturers has changed. AGS has told BDA that as the trade body for drilling they should be advising industry on these matters. One AGS member believes that it downgrades the importance of guarding in reference to trapping distances. There will undoubtedly be other areas which need to be considered. The BS was live from the end of October 2014.

    Construction Design and Management Regulations, 2015

    The changes to the CDM regulations was discussed, majority of the group felt more responsibility had been passed onto the client and they would now have to consider risk as well as the cost of the project. Julian Lovell noted the HSE encourages industry interpretation, and thought it was important guidance was produced to reflect the industry. The group agreed and recognised the re-education of clients would be the hardest transition. It was agreed joint industry guidance with the BDA and the Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS) would be ideal. Julian, Madeleine Bardsley, Adam Latimer and Jon Rayner agreed to contribute to the joint industry guidance on behalf of the AGS. Ann-Marie Casserly raised the proposal at the FPS Safety & Training meeting and Julian contacted BDA. Currently all parties agree that it would be a good initiative but neither FPS nor BDA could provide time or resources at the moment.

    Equipe are currently arranging a FREE one day seminar/discussion forum for Health and Safety in the geotechnical industry on 4th March at their training rooms near Banbury. The day is aimed to open up debate on HS&E matters including:

  • How the industry should adopt and interpret the requirements of CDM 2015
    • Can we educate the client?
    • Can CDMCs become Principal Designers?
    • Can the industry cope with the increased demand to act as Principal Contractor?
  • Will it increase resources and costs to complete CDM jobs?
  • Why companies might consider Health Surveillance

Safety Alerts

The Safety Working Group would like to receive copies of safety alerts relevant to member’s activities so that lessons can be learnt. The most valuable messages often come from Near Misses and it is hoped that we can start a regular item in the newsletter but we have to have items sent from the membership.

Report Loss Prevention

Loss Prevention Working Group Report

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Hugh Mallett, Chairman LPWG writes:

The group is drafting articles and guidance on a number of issues that are important to AGS members, see below for the list of our ongoing work programme and soon to be available guidance.


The LPWG met once since the November Committee meeting – 22nd Jan 2015. No calls have been made to the Legal or Chemical Helplines since the last LPWG meeting.

A Griffiths & Armour publication on claims “Professional Indemnity Insurance: Lessons to be learnt” is to be made available to AGS members via the new website

LPWG generally agrees with putting some documents behind a paywall on the new AGS website. There is also support for a knowledge hub (e-learning) that could be considered as a future initiative for students.

Loss Prevention Alerts (LPAs) are still in high demand for downloading [20 LPAs downloaded >100 times between Oct and Jan].

New member has joined the  group, Nora Fung – Arup legal.

Recently Published


  1. Elvanite Vs Amec- Limitations of Liability
  2. BGS – Deposition of Data


LPA 58 – Risks associated with as built drawings.
LPA 59 – The Consequences of Damage to Underground Services LPA 60 – What is meant by Supervision?

Work in Progress

  • LPAs
  • Summaries for the web site being reviewed and edited for accuracy.
  • Permission is being sought for publication of LPA 09 [Mott MacDonald case] online.
  • Contractors seeking contractual indemnities from their Sub Contractors. Ready for publication

Net Contribution Clauses: Newsletter article prepared. Authorisation to publish being sought from Griffiths & Armour.

Document on Ground Investigation Reporting (GIR/ GDR): Initial redraft prepared by J Strange – subject to further review/ comment. Now held to be consistent with revised BS5930.

Asbestos & deleterious materials: Newsletter article to be prepared [may also pick up discussion at Members Day]. Article on insurance cover re asbestos last published in 2011 to be re-published.

Collateral Warranties: Griffiths & Armour being approached to allow their Collateral Warranties – Basic Guide to be made available to AGS members. If permission is granted a short article highlighting its availability to be prepared for the Newsletter.

Expert Advisor and Expert Witness: Newsletter article being prepared. 1 of 2

Copyright Paper on copyright issues: drafted [advice to Members on copyright and on issues arising from use of reports and drawings in planning process].

PI Insurance for Contaminated Land: NEC3 contract requires insurance terms to be on an each and every claim basis. Aggregate cover only available for contaminated land (and asbestos and radioactivity). A newsletter article is being drafted.

Guide to report writing: Newsletter article drafted to advertise the guidance to AGS Members. The Guide itself was up-dated, but never published. Up-dated version to be retrieved, put on the web site and publicised in Newsletter.

Limitation period and defects liability: Article being drafted

Confidentiality and Intellectual Property Rights: issues for Staff on Secondment Loss Prevention Guidance drafted to address some of the issues arising from secondment of staff.

Signing contracts under duress: Newsletter article being prepared.

Client Guide: What Institutions, Trade Associations or other organisations might a Client expect a Geotechnical/Geoenvironmental Company and their employees to belong to? Paper in preparation.

Piling Damage to Live Railway Tunnel. Paper in preparation.


Article Business Practice

Work permits for Non-UK and EU Ground Engineers

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Although there are indications that the supply of UK and EU graduate engineers is increasing, there are still sufficient hard to fill vacancies to indicate a continuing shortage of ground engineers. Although immigration currently has a high press and political profile, it is worth noting that where the Home Office acknowledges that a skill shortage exists, certain work permits can still be fast tracked – despite the tightening of visa rules for migrants from outside Europe.

Recruitment from outside Europe requires the employer to hold a sponsorship licence (see Once this has been obtained, the visa application procedure requires the employer to fulfil the requirements of Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) – i.e. to demonstrate that it is not possible to fill the post from within the UK or EU. This can be time consuming and risks the possibility that the desired applicant finds alternative employment elsewhere before the work permit is received.

The good news, however, is that Ground Engineers are on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). This does not affect the requirement for employers of migrant labour to be licensed, but once this hurdle has been overcome (and the necessary administrative and monitoring structures have been put in place) – the RLMT is not necessary and the issue of a visa should be relatively straightforward and reasonably quick.

A number of things to be aware of:

  • Your HR Department may not be aware that Ground Engineers are on the SOL.  (Civil Engineers were removed from the list some years ago). See Table 1.

    Table of data

    Table 1

  • The visa issuing people do not understand ground engineering. To minimise problems, avoid the temptation to use your company’s job title.  Stick to the generic occupations listed in the SOL. These are (April 2014)
  • A minimum salary applies:  for new entrants this is £19,700 (SOC code 2142);   £20,000 (SOC code 2113); and £20,200 (SOC code 2121).  For experienced people it is £24,600 (Soc Code 2142); £27,000 (SOC Code 2113); and £28,700 (SOC code 2121).  (Higher thresholds may apply if the holder is accompanied by his/her family).
  • The fees for applications via the SOL route are slightly lower than normal Tier 2 application rates.
  • Since 2011 there has been a limit of 20,700 work permits issued each year under the Tier2 regulations.  Applications for job titles on the SOL have priority.
  • For very experienced, very specialist roles who don’t easily fit into the above job titles – it may be possible to get a work permit under the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent rules. These require a letter of personal recommendation from someone in the UK who is familiar with the  applicant’s work and his/her contribution to the field, and qualified to assess his/her claim to be a world leader or a potential world leader in the field. Applications will be assessed by the Royal Academy/Royal Academy of Engineers/The Royal Society.

Further information and forms can be found online – and contact numbers are readily available for guidance by UK Visas and Immigration staff.

The Ground Forum would be very interested in receiving feedback (positive and negative) from anyone obtaining visas for ground engineers – and advice that might be helpful to other applicants.

REMEMBER: Recruitment from outside the UK is not a substitute for developing UK talent.  The industry urgently needs more well qualified UK ground engineers.  Many employers are already reaping the rewards of closer liaison with universities and the early recruitment of undergraduate students and recent graduates who can benefit from work experience and specialist training in the ground engineering industry.

Report Contaminated Land

Contaminated Land Working Group Report

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Neil Parry, Chairman, CLG writes:

Our last meeting was held on 10th January 2015, 17 members attended. Below is a summary of ongoing activities.

Environment Agency (EA)

Further to the meeting with Bob MacIntyre (EA Hazardous Waste) a further (or extended) Working Group meeting is proposed once the Waste classification and assessment Technical Guidance WM3 has been published. Agreement from the Main Committee was required (Ann-Marie to forward additional room costs).


A separate working group has been set up to look into sampling protocols for contaminated soil and waste. We have been in contact with Murray Lark from the BGS and he has agreed to contribute to the sub group.


Karen Thornton reported on the statistics for NHBC and research projects on low energy, SUDS, soil stabilisation. A new Basement Construction chapter 5.4. A full review of standards is due to take place up to April this year.

Land Forum

Chaired by Seamus Lefroy-Brooks. Work being carried out on QMLC Scheme for competence.


SAGTA held a meeting at the beginning of February. It was agreed that Karen Thornton would feed back information from the meeting to the CLWG.


A panel discussion on asbestos will be held on Members’ day.


Further to the AGS Position Statement on the UKWIR guidance (guidance for the selection of water pipes in contaminated land) further monitoring of the general water company requirements will be carried out.


Roger Clarke reported that there has been a drive for more assessors as the numbers in SiLC increase.


Code of practice for the characterization and remediation from ground gas in affected developments. Some progress on the new draft reported by CLWG members involved.