Soils in Planning and Construction Task Force

View the online launch of our report ‘Building on soil sustainability: Principles for soils in planning and construction’  here

The Task Force is made up of professionals from across soil science, local authorities, urban design and landscape architecture. We have come together to drive better management of soils through the planning and construction stages of development projects. We want to protect and improve our vital soil resources, enabling soils in the built environment to function and provide crucial ecosystem services that support thriving places to live and work.

Soils are under threat from unsustainable approaches to development. In 2016, 51 million tonnes of soil were excavated in construction projects, approximately half of which went to landfill. Soils on construction sites are routinely compacted by heavy machinery leading to irreversible damage to soil structure and surface water flooding. Storage in soil heaps can lead to physical and chemical damage and is detrimental to soil organisms which are vital for healthy soil functioning. In addition, sealing with impermeable surfaces such as tarmac and paving leads to a loss of soil’s ability to function.

The potential is there to plan for soils to play a positive role in new developments. By changing our approach to the planning and management of soils during construction, the opportunity is there to retain carbon, reduce flooding risks and support biodiversity.

Our aim is to change the way we consider and manage soils throughout the planning and construction process to prevent soil degradation and promote functioning soils in development.

Our objectives are to:

  • Highlight the scale of soil degradation associated with construction and set out opportunities to address this issue;
  • Describe current limitations of guidance and policy and set out the scientific basis for improvements;
  • Engage with experts across planning, construction and development, design, waste management and soil science;
  • Develop and communicate a set of guiding principles for sustainable soil management in constructionView

Building on Soil Sustainability: Principles for soil in construction & planning report

Download and read the full report here or watch our launch webinar below.

Who we are

The Task Force is based at Lancaster University in the Lancaster Environment Centre, and is made up of academic researchers and partners from Lancaster City Council, Cornwall Council, Farrer Huxley and JTP.

Task Force members:

  • Professor John Quinton (Lancaster University)
  • Professor Jess Davies (Lancaster University)
  • Roisin O’Riordan (Lancaster University now Defra)
  • Paul Hatch, Principal Planning Officer, Lancaster City Council
  • Susanna Dart, Climate Change Policy Officer, Lancaster City Council
  • Rebecca Richards, Planning Policy Officer, Lancaster City Council
  • Adam Birchall, Head of Sustainable Development and Innovation, Cornwall Council
  • Birgit Hontzsch, Senior Project Lead, Cornwall Council
  • Charles Campion, Partner, JTP
  • Noel Farrer, Director, Farrer Huxley; Landscape Institute Vice President
  • Mareike Menzel, Associate, Farrer Huxley

Get in touch

If you would like to talk to us, please email Joh Quinton ( Jess Davies on (

With support from Lancaster City Council, Cornwall Council and Lancaster University EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account, building on research in the EPSRC Soil-Value fellowship (EP/N030532/1), NERC/EPSRC Signals in the Soil Programme (NE/T012307/1) and UKRI Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Centre For Mineral-based Construction Materials (EP/V011820/1)