Desk Study


The first phase of a ground investigation

The first phase of any ground investigation is the provision of a desk study. Current legislation considers a desk study the minimum requirement when submitting a planning application. The acquisition of a land parcel can result in the transfer of liabilities which can prove expensive to address if the underlying site hazards are not known or understood. The aim of the study is to help identify and initially quantify the potential risks associated with geotechnical, environmental or contamination hazards on a site.

The study should include a review of local historical maps, aerial photographs, public register searches, archive data, and consideration of the geological, hydrogeological and hydrological conditions for a site. A desk study will identify potential hazards such as ground instability, mining activity, landfill, and potential sources of contamination and pollution incidents.

The findings of a desk study are summarised in an outline conceptual site model (CSM) and a preliminary qualitative risk assessment. The outline CSM identifies the potential pollutant linkages between identified sources of contamination and site receptors. Where a CSM identifies a potential active pollutant linkage, further investigation will be required to assess the associated level of risk. However, if the CSM does not identify any potential active pollutant linkages further investigation and assessment of a site may not be warranted.

In addition, to publicly available records, we here at GEL have an extensive archive of site investigations across the UK going back over fifty years.

If you need a desk study and would like some advice, call us on 01452 527743


  • Historic map review
  • Previous land use
  • Geological and hydrological setting
  • Mining activity, Radon Category
  • Land stability
  • Pollution incidents
  • Groundwater designations
  • Walk over survey
  • UXO (Unexploded ordnance) study
  • GEL historic archive
  • Conceptual Site Model
  • Ground investigation recommendations