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A Q&A with Louise Beale: Specialist in Land Condition (SiLC)

Louise Beale Technical Director
Louise Beale

Louise manages and directs Phase 1 and 2 land quality assessments for public and private sector clients. She has extensive experience in advising land owners, developers, planning consultants and regulators on contamination related to securing planning permission and environmental due diligence for property transactions. Louise prepares Materials Management Plans and Qualified Person declarations under the CL:AIRE Definition of Waste Code of Practice. She is a chartered geologist, Specialist in Land Condition (SiLC) and Suitably Qualified Person under the National Quality Mark Scheme.

We sat down with Louise Beale, Technical Director in SLR’s Land Quality & Remediation team, to get a better understanding of her accreditations as a SiLC and an SQP. Louise explains how these accreditations improve outputs for herself and her clients, and how other land quality professionals can get involved.

Tell me about your job?

I’m a Technical Director in the Land Quality and Remediation Team. Complementing my role, I am a Chartered Geologist, Specialist in Land Condition (SiLC), Suitably Qualified Person (SQP) under the National Quality Mark Scheme (NQMS) and a Qualified Person (QP) for the CL:AIRE Definition of Waste Code of Practice (DoWCoP).

In my job at SLR, I work on projects where land is being bought, sold or redeveloped and advise clients on potential risks or liabilities associated with contamination. I recently worked on a site where contamination from a former oil depot and waste management activities had impacted groundwater and soil quality; we completed a site investigation and remedial strategy to support a planning application for redevelopment for residential housing.

Is there a typical day in your role? What does it involve?

A good mixture of business development, technical project work and staff management. Business development could be proposals, meeting clients, or coordinating a team of different specialists to ensure we can support our clients with a thorough multi-disciplinary team.

You’ve collected a lot of accreditations and acronyms! Firstly, what is a SiLC?

Specialist in Land Condition is a high quality, post-chartership, professional registration for the assessment of the condition and remediation of brownfield sites.

So, a registered SiLC is a senior practitioner who has a broad awareness, knowledge and understanding of land condition issues, providing impartial and professional advice in their field of expertise. 

The registration process includes a detailed application and written personal statement, an open book exam, and a peer interview. There are currently only 196 SiLCs registered in the UK.

And you’re also a Suitably Qualified Person (SQP) under the National Quality Mark Scheme (NQMS)? What does that mean?

The National Quality Mark Scheme for Land Contamination Management (NQMS) is a scheme that provides visible identification of documents that have been checked for quality by a Suitably Qualified and experienced Person (SQP).  It aims to provide increased confidence and improved quality of submissions made under regulatory regimes, particularly planning applications, related to previously used land. There are currently 40 local authorities in England who signpost the NQMS in their guidance, as well as the Environment Agency.

How does being a SiLC and an SQP benefit your clients?

I’m increasingly seeing clients asking for SiLCs and SQPs within their invitations to tender. Often clients value the demonstration of competence and require reports to be signed off by a SiLC, or they have reports destined to support planning applications that need to be signed off by an SQP.

And does it improve your role at all?

Being a SiLC gives me a focus to constantly maintain my continuous professional development, and it gives me the confidence to advise my colleagues and clients appropriately. Every site is different, and I always learn something new on each project.

What do you do to maintain your accreditation?

I am a technical representative of the AGS Contaminated Land Working Group on the SiLC Professional and Technical Panel. As part of this I have presented at SiLC introduction and training days, marked exam submissions, and interviewed candidates. I have written an article for the AGS magazine titled “An Insight into the SiLC Exam” and recently volunteered for the exam sub-group which involves setting questions and drafting model answers. 

I enjoy this role which I do partly in my own time as I meet many other consultants and have a great opportunity to ‘see how others do it’.

 Lastly, do you have any tips for aspiring SiLCs?

Go for it. You will learn a lot through the process and develop your career and confidence. I would be happy to support any of my colleagues through this process.

Approaching a mentor through the SiLC Affiliate Scheme can also provide independent support through chartership and SiLC/SQP registration, with clear objectives utilising the National Brownfield Skills Framework, and an early understanding of the purpose and benefits including CPD, the NQMS and the role of an SQP.