The paper describes the history, scope and progress of the SAFEGROUNDS project, which is concerned with the management (including, in particular, the remediation) of contaminated land on UK nuclear and defence sites. The project has produced best practice guidance on site characterisation and is currently producing guidance on land management. Stakeholder dialogue processes are an integral part of the project, because this guidance needs to be widely accepted if it is to be useful to site owners and operators. The project has its own web site, www.safe-grounds.com, which is a very important means of communication and consultation.

SAFEGROUNDS began in 1999, following a feasibility study carried out at the instigation of the UK Department of Trade and Industry. The project covers civil and defence nuclear sites, and non-nuclear defence sites where radioactive materials have been used. The best practice guidance produced by the project is for land with radioactive contamination, land with chemical (non-radioactive contamination) and land with a mixture of radioactive and chemical contamination.

The project’s web site was set up in late 1999. Several sections of it are used to provide information on progress and plans, and to publish the best practice guidance. In December 2000, the ‘feedback’ section of the site began to be used for stakeholder consultation on the key principles for managing contaminated land. This enables more people to be involved than are able to attend meetings. Questionnaires and responses to them are posted on the site, so that everyone has information about the needs, concerns and reasoning of others, in accordance with the ethos of stakeholder dialogue.

In March 2001, the consultation on the key principles for managing contaminated land reached the point where views had been requested on five draft principles and on three issues about which there appeared to be substantial disagreement. Alternative wordings for key principles on six issues were discussed at a stakeholder workshop in May 2001. Consensus was reached on some important points but several questions remained unresolved. Based on the workshop discussions, a paper was prepared that linked the proposed key principles more closely to the structure of the best practice guidance on management of contaminated land and indicated where points amplifying the principles would appear. This paper was the main input to a further stakeholder workshop in July 2001. At this workshop there was substantial agreement on five key principles. These will be incorporated in a full draft of the best practice guidance, which will be made available for stakeholder comment in December 2001. It is planned that the final version will be published in the late spring or early summer of 2002.

It is intended that, during 2002, SAFEGROUNDS will become a self-standing learning network. One of the aims of this network will be to maintain and improve the best practice guidance, in the light of experience and technical developments. The authors of this paper would like views from conference participants as to how the network can be made more international: please contact us via the web site.

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