Soil Surveys, Environmental Assessment & Land Management

Defra Construction Code of Practice for the Sustainable Use of Soils on Construction Sites

Despite construction activity having the largest impact on soil sustainability within the urban environment, it has been relatively rare for the construction industry to consider sustainable use of soil resources, except sometimes as an afterthought. This is because there is has been little planning control on the management of soil resources in the construction sector and also a poor perception of soil-related landscaping failure by the end-user of completed developments.

The Defra First Soil Action Plan for England: 2004-2006 identified a need to: improve soil management practices on construction sites, identify opportunities for the sustainable use of soils and work with other government departments and trade bodies to raise standards of sustainable construction and promote best practice in the construction industry.


The resulting Code of Practice for the Sustainable Use of Soils on Construction Sites was produced mainly from text and images prepared by Land Research Associates under contract to Defra. The objectives of the Construction Code of Practice are:

  1. Identification of soil resources at an early stage in the development process;
  2. Improved planning of soil use;
  3. Improved soil management during project implementation, including sustainable use of surplus soil;
  4. Maintenance of soil quality and function both on and off site;
  5. Avoidance of soil compaction and erosion (with a consequent reduction in flooding and water pollution);
  6. An improved knowledge and understanding of soil at all levels in the construction industry, including soil amelioration techniques.

The published Code includes illustrated sections (written in simple language and aimed at environmental managers, consultants, designers and site operatives), as below

  • Pre-construction planning, e.g. soil resource surveys to help inform the site working strategy
  • Soil Resource Plans - to inform soil management (stripping and stockpiling) during construction
  • Soil placement, physical amelioration and aftercare for landscape, habitat or garden creation

Each section includes illustrated case studies and a list of Does and Donts.

The Code of Practice states that the soil resource survey should be ‘carried out on site by a suitably qualified and experienced soil scientist or practitioner (e.g. a member of the Institute of Professional Soil Scientists)’. With three staff meeting those criteria LRA are in an ideal position to help.


For further information contact or call 01509 670570.