Providing a home for soil from development sites could offer farmers an opportunity to generate revenue and help the environment.
With ever-more residential and commercial development under way, significant amounts of soil will need to be shifted from such sites – and farmers could be ideally placed to take it, says CLM land consultant Matthew Berryman.
“Construction projects often generate big quantities of soil and, although many licensed tips take such commercial waste, this can involve moving it large distances. It cuts diesel use and reduces road congestion if it’s able to head to a more local farm.”
As well as benefiting the environment, it can represent a ‘win-win’ for the farmer, providing a much-needed source of income, along with a material that can potentially be used in a host of landscaping and building projects.
Soil can be useful when constructing a bund to shield property from the noise of a road, railway track or even a busy yard,”says Mr Berryman. “Bunds can also used to reduce the visual impact of battery storage and other energy-related developments.
“I’ve seen it used for a fishing diversification where a particular type of soil was needed to create the lakes. It could also be used in landscaping projects designed to provide habitats for biodiversity or recreational spaces for visitors.”
Farmers could receive between £40 and £70 per lorry load, depending the distance it has to be transported and access arrangements. Suitable locations can offer fantastic opportunities for land-raising – mounding soil above ground-level, says Mr Berryman. “Obviously it depends on where you are and how much material you can responsibly take, but some farmers have been able to add hundreds of thousands of pounds to their bottom line in this way,” he explains.
“Getting planning need not always be a lengthy process. Indeed, some small-scale projects can be done under the permitted development rights process, which is quick and low-cost compared to submitting a full planning application.”
Farmers are no strangers to navigating the planning system and Mr Berryman says it is vital to ensure all the right permissions and paperwork are in place before bringing a single bucketful of new soil on to farmland.”
“You certainly don’t want to risk taking what you think is ‘inert, uncontaminated’ soil only to later discover it’s not, and to be faced with a bill for moving it to licenced landfill that could be many times greater than the sum you received.
“Local residents may, understandably, also have questions so it’s important to keep your neighbours informed,” adds Mr Berryman. “But carefully planned and site-sensitive projects can bring benefits for all involved.”