REC Ltd plans for further growth in the South – an interview with Regional Director, Stuart Phillips

Stuart PUK environmental consultancy – Resource & Environmental Consultants Ltd (REC) – started from humble beginnings in the South to now become a major player in the region. REC’s Regional Director – Stuart Phillips – explains how that came about and what’s planned next:

Hi Stuart – tell us about how the southern REC business started and how its built up since then?

REC has been around for over 20 years. Established in the North-West, we’ve always had a southern presence but it’s been relatively modest in terms of our Consultancy services for no other reason than we grew quicker in the North. In the last 5 years especially, we’ve grown in the South to become a major player particularly recognised for our Geo-Environmental services. We started with three staff and we’re now approaching 20 staff across 3 southern offices which is amazing and something I’m really proud of.

Why do you think REC in the South is such a great place to work and tell us a bit more about your team?

We’ve always had a strong local / regional ethos in terms of how we operate – our local knowledge, the strength of relationships with our clients and the employees that we have.

We’ve brought in quite a few staff straight from local universities and grown and developed them into more senior staff. For example, Ross in our Croydon office started with us as a graduate and is now a Senior Consultant there (see Ross’s graduate journey here ). We work really hard but we also enjoy what we do and we celebrate that with our clients at local REC client events such as our Winchester curry night, at their charity events, as well as being active members of the local Chambers of Commerce, Women in Property and so on. We’ve got great team spirit and enthusiasm and that shows in the work we provide to our clients and the professional and technical expertise we provide to them.

If you were advising someone about getting into environmental consultancy, what would you say?

The market for environmental consultancy continues to grow and we’ve certainly seen that here.

The environmental sector is a fascinating and diverse profession – from providing advice to developers seeking to obtain planning permissions through to regulatory compliance and reporting.  Not only that but environmental issues continue to be relevant – the air that we breathe, the environmental quality of our landscapes and neighbourhoods, human impact, plastics and waste, soil quality and erosion and of course dealing with climate change. That means there are a good deal of opportunities for recruitment – for example, REC is actively recruiting at all levels in the South to support our business in contaminated land and geotechnics, ecology, acoustics and air quality. For anyone looking to get into environmental consultancy whether from graduate or moving from another field, it’s essential to get relevant experience (internships for example) and also develop commercial acumen to balance with the technical.

What next for REC in the South?

Having grown our Geo-Environmental team and capability, we’re increasingly providing clients with our full breadth of services to support their needs and provide solutions including Ecology, Acoustics, Air Quality and Asbestos. We’re now growing those teams as well as looking to establish a presence in central London in response to our clients’ needs as well as seeking to provide environmental consulting services into our long-established Plymouth office and therefore providing South-West coverage.

REC is part of the Concept Life Sciences Group and in turn part of Spectris PLC which has provided us with the opportunity to be even more expansive in our plans – so it is really exciting times ahead for REC.

 Anything else?

There’s plenty of environmental challenges facing the UK and the South / South-East in particular. Air Quality is one of those challenges and London, not surprisingly, is a focal point with concerns about particulates from increased wood burning , from traffic and thoughts on Zero Emission Zones. REC has already undertaken many Air Quality Impact Assessments for clients with schemes in London and we see this as a major growth area going forwards.

Graduate Journeys at REC

Ross Lawton notes:

“My experience at REC I’d say has been a really fantastic one. They make me feel very valued, and very supported in what I want to do…. I really am pursuing the career I want because of the work I’m doing.”

At REC we recognise the importance of investing in the training and development of our staff. In particular we support graduates to become experts in their respective fields. We recently caught up with REC’s Ross Lawton – who graduated in 2013 and is based in our Croydon office – to find out more about his graduate journey from Geo-Environmental Graduate to Senior Consultant and what a typical day entails.

Hello Ross – tell us about a typical day in Geo-Environmental at REC

A typical day at REC is always pretty difficult to describe as there is so much variety in what we do. Working within the Land team we provide Geotechnical and Contaminated Land Investigations and Assessments for clients all over the country to determine land quality to inform their schemes. As a Senior I am responsible for my own team of engineers and consultants, ensuring that we provide professional and authoritative advice to our clients. No two days are the same with client meetings and project briefings held in tandem with now providing technical support to the more junior members of staff including reviewing technical reports and design documentation.

Are there any projects you’re working on at the moment that are particularly interesting?

We’re currently providing Geo-Environmental Consultancy services on a large 32 acre £1 billion regeneration scheme in South London for a joint venture client. As the development is so vast, and located in an urban environment with difficult ground conditions, the ground investigation phase of the project has been very interesting with investigation boreholes drilled to as deep as 100 meters below ground level in some instances.

 How did you get into environmental consultancy work?

 Having completed my BSc undergraduate degree in Geography, I knew that I wanted a career where I was in touch with the natural and built environment around me. Having been informed that a position was available at REC for a Graduate Consultant I jumped at the opportunity. My work  started with simple groundwater and ground gas monitoring, working under more senior members of the team on their projects, developed into having  more and more responsibility for client liaison and project management on my own contaminated land and geotechnical design projects.

What makes REC a great place for graduates?

REC is a fantastic place for graduates to join as it offers a fun and enjoyable place to work surrounded by a creative, supportive and pragmatic group of people. The variety is great and at REC as a graduate that’s exactly what you get. Although I work within the Land team, we often have our graduates out and about assisting other disciplines such as Air Quality, Acoustics and Ecology with anything from Habitat Surveys under supervision from our ecology team, to Occupational Noise Assessment under supervision from our Acoustics team.

How is a senior role different to a graduate role?

As a Senior at REC I have responsibility not only for my team, and the technical aspects of the reports they produce, but also ensuring that we keep strong healthy working relationships with our clients. As a graduate you’re sent out under supervision from senior members of staff. As you progress and gain confidence and technical knowledge in your field the responsibility to manage the project falls to you and newer members of the team provide the data generation and they in turn gradually progress with training and experience. It’s a virtuous cycle.

 What gets you up in the morning?

In a nutshell, it’s the team that I work with and the projects we work on! At REC I am surrounded by a really supporting and friendly team of people with a wealth of technical knowledge

Have you got any particular advice for  graduates looking to get into environmental work?

My advice would fall into two main camps. Firstly I’d advice all recent or future graduates to take a keen interest in environmental science, geology or geotechnics, whether that be by joining a local focus group or by joining a national society such as the Geological Society of London or the Chartered Institute of Environmental Management. Often these societies promote graduate advice forums which are a good place to find graduates in a similar situation. Secondly, I’d recommend that you pick up the phone and make a call. Online applications are important, but often making a phone call can put you straight to the top of the employers list. Or better yet, turn up at the company with a CV and covering letter!

REC is expanding and has an ongoing need for environmental consultants at all grades. If you’re interested in working with us  please email your details to or email about geo-environmental roles if you would like to follow a similar career journey.

You can also give us a call on 0845 676 9303 or Look on our website for advertised roles

Clean Air Fund: How are UK cities dealing with air pollution?

In October 2017 a report by the World Health Organisation claimed that the quality of air in 44 UK cities – including London, Leeds and Glasgow – made it a serious risk to our health. However in accordance with the Autumn Budget 2017, £220 million of grants will be allocated through the Clean Air Fund to local authorities.

The Clean Air Fund will allow councils to support people and businesses adapting to measures to improve air quality. This means that cities looking to implement air quality improvement measures can be better equipped to deal with air pollution.

The test for determining air quality is done by identifying the levels of certain pollutants and assessing these against national health based targets. In many instances in the UK exposure levels exceed the targets and in UK cities, levels are exceeding cover wide areas. Air pollution is linked to heart disease and is particularly a threat to the elderly, outdoor workers, children, pregnant women and people with asthma.

Whilst London Local Authorities are ineligible to apply for this funding, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has dedicated £20 million to the Mayoral Air Quality Fund (MAQF). This fund enables London boroughs to improve air quality through a series of projects. This is in an effort to get pollution levels down to WHO standards of safety by 2030. Air pollution in London will be dealt with by creating 12 low emission bus zones, phasing out diesel taxis, checking air quality around schools and creating alerts when air quality falls below a certain standard.

Since 2015, 28 boroughs in London also took advantage of electric vehicle fleets, the London Low Emission Construction Partnership, introducing low emission vehicles, a green courier service and various infrastructure projects to encourage more walking and cycling. Find out more about the projects here.

Local authorities outside of London who have applied for Clean Air Fund grants need to demonstrate that their proposed improvement measures, like those being implemented across London, are tailored to their areas to minimise the potential impact of dangerous air.

What’s next?

If you are dedicated towards improving air quality and have put together a solid plan for the Clean Air Fund, REC can provide advice and guidance so that you can implement your projects effectively.

We are a national environmental consultancy with a locally delivered, human approach. We can help you take the right steps in managing air quality. To discuss this with an expert, get in touch with us now on 0845 676 9309.

Asbestos Control: Avoid Legal Action and Delays

In accordance with the Asbestos Control Regulations 2012, if you are planning any work on a building and you are the duty holder then you are responsible for asbestos management.

This reminder should come as no surprise in light of recent news that an asbestos consultancy is facing legal action from Arbertillery Leisure Centre and Blaenau Gwent Council for ineffectively carrying out a survey which did not locate brown asbestos in cavity walls.

As well as legal action, this issue relating to management of asbestos has also led to demolition of the leisure centre being postponed for 18 months and an additional £1m to overall demolition costs to remove the asbestos.

The legal action relates to claims that the firm responsible for carrying out asbestos management may not have carried out the specialist pre-demolition refurbishment survey (PDR) sufficiently. The related survey report stated that cavity walls had been checked.

Reliable Asbestos Control

Asbestos control is a crucial step before any work can take place on a building. This is due to the fact that it protects contractors carrying out the work, and it is the legal responsibility of the duty holder to ensure that sufficient surveys take place to identify this risk before any building work can take place.

Contractors who end up in contact with air containing asbestos fibres can lead to asbestos related diseases such as mesothelioma and lung cancers.

Avoiding legal action, delays to planning or demolition and additional costs to this work comes with working with a reliable consultancy that you can trust. REC is a national asbestos and environmental consultancy with a locally delivered, human approach. We can help you take the right steps in asbestos management – to discuss this with an expert get in touch with me now on 0845 676 9303.

Thank you,

Scott Bentley
Head of Asbestos Planned Services

Chamber Business Awards 2017 considers REC

REC is recognised by the Chamber Business Awards 2017

The Chamber Business Awards 2017 is one of the UK’s most prestigious business award programmes and REC has been considered for a Chamber Business award. REC is an active chamber business member of the Chambers of Commerce and was up against some fantastic competitors, all worthy of a place to compete.

As a national consultancy with local specialists delivering assessments across the country, to be recognised for such an award is a fantastic achievement in 2017. For the 14th year running, this prestigious event, is a key date in the business calendar: highlighting the role of businesses in delivering growth and prosperity for the UK and local communities.

Nominated businesses from across the UK will come together at a gala dinner on 30th November, hosted by TV personality Kate Thornton; celebrating the successes of British businesses and Chambers of Commerce.

Although it wasn’t our year, the consideration has reconfirmed to us just how important our national presence is in delivering environmental services to our clients, and has provided extra impetus to our future growth plans. We wish all the finalists the best of luck for the awards dinner on 30th November – hopefully you will see REC up for an award in the not too distant future.


Work With Chamber Business Awards Recognised Expertise

To work with a nationally recognised environmental consultancy with a multi-disciplinary approach, get in touch now on 0845 676 9303. We have a whole host of services including acoustics, air quality, asbestos management, ecology, ground investigation, land quality and lighting.


Asbestos Awareness: Boyes Turners Asbestos Study Day

Asbestos awareness is decreasing. Due to the prevalence of Asbestos being used throughout history as a fire resistant material, asbestos exposure is a real threat to contractors undertaking work on older buildings throughout the UK, so necessary measures and steps must be taken into action to deal with this underlying issue. As more organisations are being fined for failing to deal with it, REC Ltd recently delivered a workshop at the Boyes Turner Asbestos Awareness Study Day to reinforce the importance of taking the necessary steps to manage this very real threat.


Boyes Turner Asbestos Awareness Study Day

Scott Bentley, Head of Asbestos Planned Services, had the pleasure of speaking at Boyes Turners Asbestos Study Day in late September. The day was aimed at educating health and industry professionals on the dangers around asbestos exposure and how this can lead to mesothelioma and other lung related diseases. Scott’s sessions particularly focused on Asbestos in the workplace which went through the history of asbestos as prevalent material, working conditions (past and present) and how this has lead to asbestos exposure related diseases.
The day was a great success surrounded by experts on both legal and health sides of the topic. Others discussed the medical challenges linking lung problems directly with asbestosis (mesothelioma) vs other lung diseases and therefore determining grounds for a legal claim or compensation.


Asbestos Awareness: Taking Action

To work with real experts with a human approach, choose a nationally recognised environmental consultancy to help you take the rights steps in asbestos management. Get in touch now on 0845 676 9303.  

5 winter considerations for Preliminary Ecological Appraisals


Preliminary Ecological Appraisals (PEAs) are an important to discover which ecological constraints are present on your site, so that you can prevent delays. Managing this effectively can grant planning permission early; allowing you to plan ahead for protected species surveys which can take place over spring and summer. Preliminary Ecological Appraisals place you in a better position with better aligned timescales for submitting planning applications.

As a general rule, councils will not grant planning permission until all necessary protected species surveys have been undertaken, so early survey planning and organisation is key to getting those applications through in a timely manner. Throughout the winter months, REC Ltd undertakes a variety of ecological surveys.

5 winter considerations for Preliminary Ecological Appraisals

1. The bat survey season ends in September.

The end of September means the end of bat surveys (much to most ecologist’s relief!). Bats hibernate over winter, meaning you can’t undertake nocturnal emergence surveys. The survey season reopens in May and so missing the survey window could result in long delays to your project. With just a few weeks left, get in touch now to see if your site requires a bat survey.

2. The Reptile survey season ends in October

Whilst many people don’t realise that we actually have 6 native species of reptile in the UK, many sites will require a suite of reptile surveys if the habitats are suitable. Reptiles typically prefer well-structured habitats, such as rough grassland and scrub, with a range of basking opportunities and good links to the wider landscape.

Reptile surveys require 8 separate survey visits, one to set out a series of Artificial Cover Objects (ACO’s), and seven further visits to check them for reptiles. Whilst surveys can continue into October (weather permitting), it is not best practice to carry out all surveys within one month, and so if you think your site may require these surveys get in touch now!

3. Wintering bird surveys can start in November

Wintering habitats or migration stop over locations, are just as important as breeding sites, and need to be considered for any development sites that may hold species of conservation over winter. Considering wintering birds at the early stages of planning will save time and money – and again, can delay planning if not done in season. Get these surveys booked in now to avoid missing the start of the wintering bird survey season!

4. Ecological Appraisals don’t stop over winter

Preliminary Ecological Appraisals and constraints surveys can be undertaken throughout the winter months. Getting a good understanding of any potential ecological constraints on your site during the winter can ensure that all protected species surveys completed with no delays by the time spring arrives!

5. Winter planning saves delays to your project

All survey information is required up front to obtain planning permission. This is so that the council can assess if the recommended mitigation will be sufficient so that no wildlife legislation is contravened during development. Making sure your preliminary ecological appraisals are booked in at the correct time of year. Consulting an ecologist early in the design process can save significant delays to a project.

Book Preliminary Ecological Appraisals for your site

To work with a nationally recognised environmental consultancy with a multi-disciplinary approach, get in touch now on 0845 676 9303.  Besides ecology, we have a whole host of services to help you with planning application including acoustics, air quality, asbestos management, ground investigation, land quality and lighting.

Health and Safety on Site: A Site Engineer’s Perspective

Health and Safety on site: A Site Engineer’s Perspective

In support of UK health and safety week this week, REC Geo-Environmental site engineer consultant Marc Roberts, tells us about his role and the importance of health and safety out on site. Based in REC’s southern office, one of Marc’s key responsibilities is managing ground investigations and ensuring that everyone goes home safely at the end of the day.

Health and Safety Week
Marc Roberts,  Consultant

“From a site engineer perspective, health and safety is our main priority on site. Arriving on site early, I always take time to survey the site area and work out a safe way to set up fencing if applicable, as well as establish suitable places for the first aid kits etc. When everyone  has arrived on site, including clients and contractors, I complete a full induction that covers; site investigation aims, site procedures and any access constraints, as well as health and safety aspects to be aware of and risk mitigation.

One of the biggest health and safety constraints we face as engineers, is accurately locating any underground services, which we address by carrying out underground radar mapping before issuing on-site contractors permits to dig. Not adhering to such procedures can be fatal, and there have been several, well-recorded underground services incidents where workers have suffered because of this; for example, those who were subjected to severe burns by mistakenly drilled through an 11,000 volt cable at the House of Lords in 2015. However, beyond the obvious serious health implications, such occurrences can also lead to delays on site and sometimes affect surrounding areas. This can incur additional costs and further health and safety hazards, which is why it’s crucial that any underground services are pinpointed prior to work beginning on site, as well as ensuring health and safety procedures are upheld throughout the project.

Other constraints that we often have to take into consideration are:

  • Working near busy roads – we ensure that all workers work within fence lines and highlight the specific importance of wearing hi-viz jackets.
  • Working indoors – we highlight the importance of ear defenders and hard hats, as well as provide dust masks if dust is anticipated.
  • Hot weather – we encourage everyone to drink plenty of water, apply sun cream and take sufficient breaks in shaded areas.

It is also my duty as a first aider on site to point out the location of first aid kits and the nearest A&E department, as well as being made aware of anyone’s medical conditions before proceeding. I also ensure that everyone on site wears the correct PPE at all times. Health and safety is not always so obvious, however. It is as just much my responsibility to maintain morale and motivation within a team as it is to maintain health and safety standards. Making sure that staff are happy with the job at hand, results in the team not only being more engaged, but makes our processes more efficient, as well as my job more rewarding in the long run.”


Bat Surveys and their Impact on Planning

REC Ecologist Katie Bird heads out on site with environmental scientist colleagues, Marc Roberts and Alasdair Brooker, to explore the potential impact of Bat Surveys on planning if not completed in season.

Bat Roost Survey

Derelict and abandoned sites often present habitat opportunities for wildlife. This former car garage was no exception. Due to various nooks, crevices and uneven roofs, the site had a high potential for bat roosts. With it being peak bat survey season, the REC team headed out on site to establish any evidence for such bat activity.

All bats and their breeding sites are protected by law in the UK. Natural England requires that any development that could affect protected species,  needs surveying and mitigation plans completed prior to planning permission being approved. Sometimes bat surveys are not requested by the council until planning permission has been submitted, and sometimes surveys are requested once the designated survey season has passed. It is illegal for development to continue if evidence of bat activity has been discovered during works, and a survey within season will be required before being resumed.

Whilst Daytime Bat Scoping Surveys (sometimes known as preliminary roost assessments) can be carried out at any time of the year, bat surveys (often called bat emergence/ re-entry surveys or dusk/dawn surveys) are seasonally restricted between the months of May and September and are generally required where evidence of bat activity or habitat value is present on a site.


Bat hibernation in the winter months means that bat surveys can only be done during the summer (May to September) when the species are active. If missed, then this can result in significant delays to development. The same can occur if a survey is requested after the bat roost season has finished; for example, if an application is submitted and considered later on during the year. It is crucial, therefore, that any planning applications for developments that have the potential to impact protected species, allocate time for  bat surveys to be conducted as soon as possible.

Generally, the larger the site, the more vantage points there are to cover – so a team of three was essential for a site of this size. Best Practice Guidelines state that bat emergence surveys have to  start at least 15 minutes before dusk and last for up to 2 hours afterwards, meaning that the team were on site for a good while after sunset. For a dawn re-entry survey, surveyors begin approximately 1.5 hours before dawn and continue at least 15 minutes after. Being on site early in the morning and late at night means that a flask of tea and a warm blanket, as well as bat detection equipment (measuring sound frequency and echolocation) are essential items of kit for any bat survey.

Bat Roost Season

A bat emergence survey is used to confirm or discount the presence of roosting bats within a building that has been assessed as having the potential to support the species during the daytime bat scoping survey.  Our team, therefore, were looking for potential roost features, which can include the inside of crevices, south facing aspects (due to the warmer climate), dense ivy and hanging tiles, and watched these features throughout the survey for any bats leaving. Some bats such as the Common Pipistrelle, can fit into holes as small as a 20 pence piece, so it is essential that every corner is covered.

On this occasion, no signs of bat roosting activity were found at the site and therefore mitigation measures will not be required – allowing development to go ahead. However, if evidence had been found, then depending on the quantity of bats, a Natural England Bat Mitigation License would have been required as well as mitigation measures such as bat boxes for roosting and additional shrubbery (to provide insects to feed on) would have been required.  Irrespective, it is essential to consider potential for such protected species early on in the development process so that any required surveys (if any) do not interrupt or delay planning and development later on.

Bat Survey Advice

If you need advice or have any questions about Ecological Surveys, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Senior Ecologist, Olivia Winter at:, or 0161 868 1300.

Asbestos Awareness Week – Out on Site

For the second part of our Asbestos Awareness Week, Marketing Executive, Emma Prendergast, has been out on site with Operations Manager, James Pool, to experience an asbestos survey first hand.

Emma Prendergast, Marketing Executive, REC Ltd

“A grovelling 7am start, we met for a pre-site briefing at REC headquarters in Manchester. James was waiting for me with the least flattering of get ups; a p3 filtered half face mask, steel-capped boots, hard hat, type 5-6 coveralls and safety glasses. Anyone carrying out or participating in an asbestos survey has to adhere to asbestos health and safety standards – and I was no exception. Airborne asbestos imposes a health risk to anyone who inhales or ingests it, so the uniform was mandatory, despite the truly, frightening reflection in the mirror.

Both weighed down in kit, James drove us to an old industrial site in Manchester, which up until recently, had been used as a production plant. With the site closure, however, the plant is now being decommissioned and knocked down, and the space created used for a new residential development by a major property developer.


Any site built before the year 2000 can potentially contain asbestos and will most likely need an asbestos survey before any works are carried out. This particular site dates back to the 1920s, so James is here to carry out a demolition survey to determine whether there are any asbestos containing materials (ACMs), prior to demolition taking place. This is a fully intrusive survey and uses destructive techniques (knocking through walls, taking up carpet etc) to access all parts of the building’s construction.

Due to the size of the site, the entirety of the survey will take just over a month – but James was able to provide me with an insightful snapshot into the nitty gritty of what an asbestos survey entails. Laden with ladders, tools and a suspicious looking axe, (our surveying staff are trained in working at heights and using a variety of tools), James didn’t hold back; from being up in the ceiling, slicing through walls and tearing out carpet, no stone was left unturned. James explained why this was the case, “Asbestos was first used for construction in the UK in the late 1800s and can be hidden anywhere; from ceilings, pipe lagging, insulation, roofing, walls – to even the backs of tiles – so it’s essential that an asbestos surveyor is as thorough as possible, ensuring that all asbestos is detected and can be disposed of correctly”.


Anything we unearthed as suspected asbestos was sampled, double bagged and labelled, and then taken to one of REC’s laboratories to be analysed by a bulk analyst. It’s only when James has completed the survey in full, however, that the identified ACMs can be removed by an asbestos removal contractor, prior to demolition of the building.

After 4 hours of what felt like a full day’s session at the gym, James and I then cleaned all of the tools and removed and double bagged our overalls, sending them to the lab to be disposed of as hazardous waste. We then then drove to the lab to drop the samples off before I was finally released back into the office.


Now, with thanks to James, I have come away with the highest respect for asbestos surveyors and analysts, not least for the full work out that being on site provides. I have a more thorough understanding of what asbestos surveys involve and the comprehensive approach that asbestos teams go through to ensure our safety on and off site.”

 If you need an asbestos survey, or worried about asbestos, visit our FAQ page or get in touch with James Pool for more information.