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The National Quality Mark Scheme for Land Contamination Management (NQMS) was launched last month by the Land Forum, with a view to improving the quality and consistency of technical advice provided by environmental consultants about land contamination, and hopefully to speed up the development process where potentially contaminated sites are under consideration.

The Land Forum is a group of public and private organisations that promote the sustainable re-use of land, and the NQMS is a voluntary scheme that has the support of the Department for Communities and Local Government, DEFRA, the Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

The Scheme will award a Quality Mark to an environmental report that meets certain criteria intended to show that the work has been properly undertaken in accordance with current guidance and by staff that are competent. What will be new will be a requirement to identify any uncertainties in the data, and to highlight the extent to which these uncertainties could impact on the report's conclusions. A suitably qualified and experienced person (assessed under the National Brownfield Skills Framework) must either undertake or review the work.

The Quality Mark should benefit clients as the consistency of environmental reports improves, hopefully making it easier to "read between the lines". At the moment there is a clear distinction between a report produced for a seller of contaminated land, and one commissioned by the buyer. This distinction needs to be factored into the risk assessment and pricing mechanisms that underpin a property transaction, and may become easier to do if the Quality Mark leads to improved clarity in the Conclusions and Recommendations section of an environmental report.