Author Archives: Stephen Lees

Environmental consulting sector defies Brexit concerns

The latest market research report published by Environment Analyst ( shows that the UK environmental consulting (EC) market grew by 5.1% during 2017 to reach a total turnover of £1.74bn.  Continued growth for the UK environment sector is expected to be around 4.8% for 2018 when all the figures become available.

Large infrastructure projects, increased public sector spend and streamlined management  structures are helping consultancies to achieve continued healthy growth, so there is no evidence of Brexit blues at the current time.

The report is based on the financial statistics and detailed company profiles of the leading  28 environmental consultancy practices based in the UK.  The Environment Analyst finds that the ‘Top 28’ grouped together account for as much as 71% share of the total EC market.  Of the Top 28, five companies recorded substantial growth (>20%) in their EC revenue during this period while a further three saw growth in the region of 10-20%.  Only six firms saw revenue decline during the period.

Environmental Impact Assessment & sustainable development work remains the highest earning service area in the EC market accounting for 16.2% of revenue while ecological/landscape services now represent 13.4% of the EC total value.  Ecological and landscape services have increased in value by 9.2% on the previous year.

Infrastructure & development clients make up nearly 29% of the total market, with the next largest sector being the regulated industries (27.4%) and then government bodies (20.1%).

Investigating root spread prior to development

The top five environmental consulting firms – RPS, Jacobs, WSP, AECOM and Arcadis now hold a combined 31% share of the market – up from 29% the previous year thanks to Jacobs’ purchase of rival CH2M for $2.9bn which created a 74,000-strong global engineering and professional services giant.  The acquisition also pushed Jacobs’ into second position, up from fifth place in last year’s report.

It’s worth noting that in 2008 the Top 5 only accounted for approximately 17% of the total market which shows that these firms have more than doubled their market share largely through company amalgamation during the last 10 years.  Of the top 5 firms in 2008, only RPS has the same structure and ownership.  In 2017 alone, no less than four of the Top 28 changed hands. Last year Stantec’s purchased  Peter Brett Associates (PBA), and both Temple and RSK bought firms during 2018 to enhance and broaden their capabilities, notably in the area of ecology.  Big firms continue to put the squeeze on SME’s who struggle to maintain their share of  EC opportunities.

There are genuine reasons to be optimistic about the future of the environmental services sector at large.  The pipeline of infrastructure projects continues to be strong.  The recent actions by the government in releasing its Clean Air Strategy, Resources and Waste Strategy for England and the tabling of the draft Environmental Principles and Governance Bill during 2018/19 have also helped allay any fears of a bonfire of red-tape post-Brexit.  Indeed Brexit itself is likely to fuel demand from both central and local governments for outsourced services.

The national infrastructure and construction pipeline remains at an astronomical value of £413bn and with the government’s promise that “austerity is coming to an end” it would seem that it intends to spend its way out of Brexit troubles.  But the Brexit scene is changing so rapidly, from day to day and week to week, you never know how quickly this may be overtaken by events.

However, the environment will always be there, Brexit or no Brexit, and the government is planning to maintain environmental standards in a post Brexit world.  Indeed the intentions are laid out in the 25 year Environment Plan which we reviewed last year in our June blog.  We expect the environment to remain high on the political and development agenda for many years to come.

Reptile protection and translocation

Simon Humphreys

The Montgomery Canal: Restoring a Site of Special Scientific Interest

Current canal restoration, with newt exclusion fencing

This blog has some historical information, but please indulge me as I include some information from a previous job restoring the Montgomery Canal!  The canal is a SSSI for large sections of its length and also a SAC in Wales, primarily for rare aquatic plants, which happily co-existed with horse-drawn barges, but do not like modern propellers and silt disturbance.  Add in 127 listed structures, the 1986 Parliamentary Acct to restore the canal and many active restoration volunteers and you have quite a mix.

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Job Opportunity: Landscape Architect


Leeds Castle gardens design (Land and Heritage)

What is a landscape architect? We are generally very familiar with ‘Architects’ designing built structures, and with engineers making them happen, but what about the open spaces surrounding and between structures? They rarely simply ‘happen’ and require a level of thought from the modest to the sublime. Many of us are familiar with garden designers and landscapers, backed up by a host of television coverage from quick fix gardens to the Chelsea flower show design sets, but what about parks, towns and large landscapes? Continue reading

Wetland Restoration on Goss Moor NNR

Rewetting already spreading from the Pendine ditch

Our contracting team have recently completed a “Peatland Hydrological Restoration Project” for Natural England at Goss Moor National Nature Reserve in Cornwall.  The aim was mainly to raise the water table locally, and also introduce some natural meandering processes in to the River Fal.  The chosen methods on this occasion were a series of leaky dams on side drains and flow deflectors on the river channel.  Longer term, the site manager, Steve Hall, would prefer to see beavers doing the work. Continue reading

The Protection of Ancient Woodland and Veteran Trees from Development

Trenant Wood, Cornwall

Natural England and the Forestry Commission first produced a statement of Standing Advice” for veteran trees and ancient woodlands” back in 2014.  Standing advice is a ‘material’ planning consideration, meaning that planning authorities must take the advice into account when making decisions on relevant planning applications.  Since the advice was first issued there have been no less than 7 updates or changes to the advice given, so make sure you are up to date! Continue reading