UK Case Studies

RPS UXO Risk Assessment and Management Services - Belle Toute Lighthouse, Sussex

RPS has been involved with the works associated with the redevelopment of the high profile Belle Toute Lighthouse in East Sussex into a new bed and breakfast. The client was aware that there was potentially a risk from UXO in the area of the lighthouse, and as such approached RPS for advice on how to proceed with dealing with the situation. RPS were subsequently commissioned to undertake a Desk Study for Potential Historic Unexploded Ordnance Contamination for the site.

By utilising various sources of historic mapping and aerial photography in conjunction with literary and documentary sources it was identified that targets for weapons training were located almost adjacent to the location of the lighthouse. Further to this, historic imagery was identified which depicted the lighthouse in a severe state of disrepair as a result of being hit by projectiles that ‘missed’ their intended targets.

Based on this information, it was identified that there was a significant risk of encountering UXO during the proposed intrusive works at the site, as a result of the training activities, and it was recommended that mitigation be put in place to support these operations.

Subsequently, RPS were commissioned to support the intrusive works being undertaken at the site, based on the recommendation made previously. RPS produced and provided Explosives Site Safety Guidelines to relevant personnel working at the site as well as proving Explosives Site Safety Engineers to be in attendance during the works. The primary objectives of the engineer at the site are as follows:

  • Provide UXO safety and awareness briefings (where necessary).
  • Monitor any intrusive activities and scan ahead for UXO using sensitive magnetometry equipment (where practicable).
  • Identify any items of UXO and identify whether or not they are dangerous.
  • Liaise with appropriate authorities and expedite the safe removal of identified items of UXO.

Since works started on site, RPS has identified 20 items of UXO, all of which were projectiles, which have been subsequently safely removed from the site.

RPS UXO Risk Assessment - Ex RAF Airfield, Scotland

RPS Explosives Engineering Services (EES), part of RPS Energy Ltd, was commissioned by a local council to undertake a desktop study for potential historic Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) contamination at a former RAF Elgin site in  Scotland. The study comprises a desk-based collation and review of available documentation and records relating to historic ordnance and bombing events. The purpose of the study was to assess the likelihood of buried unexploded ordnance (UXO) related items to be present within the footprint of the site. Moreover, to then evaluate the implications of potential items during any future land use.

RPS EES identified that there was a potential risk from UXO at the site, however, the most elevated risk was identified as being Low. Review of historical information indicated that during WWII a section of the airfield was designated as a ‘Bomb Store Area’ for storing ordnance including bombs, projectiles, pyrotechnics and small arms ammunition. It appeared that all of the munitions/ordnance storage buildings were grouped in this area, with the exception of one small SAA store in another area of the site. In addition to the ‘Bomb Store Area’, RPS EES identified an area which was utilised as a Machine Gun, Cannon and Pistol training range. It was considered possible for UXO contamination, in the form of un-fired 20mm cannon and SAA rounds, to have been created in this area. Further to this, it was also identified that residential premises had since been constructed in this area, with their grounds fully occupying the entire area of the former range.

It was identified from historical mapping and aerial imagery that the majority of the area where the ‘Bomb Store Area’ was previously present was predominantly likely to have been ‘worked’ significantly due to the presence of post-WWII quarrying. There were number of previous bomb stores buildings identified which may be located in areas where quarrying has not been undertaken, with recent aerial imagery indicating that these locations are now likely to be covered by woodland. RPS EES was advised by the client, that they were not aware of any incidents involving UXO having occurred at the quarry, and RPS EES did not identify any further accounts to suggest otherwise.

Very limited accounts of WWII enemy activity in the area were identified, and at the time no accounts of bombing/attacks, and specifically the former RAF airfield, had been identified, despite the fact that the airfield was identified as a known Luftwaffe ‘target’ evidenced from Luftwaffe aerial reconnaissance imagery.

Further to this, it was identified that a number of HAA positions were located in and around the area during WWII, and there is the possibility that unexploded projectile rounds may have landed in the general area of the sites. Having said this, the perceived low levels of aerial enemy activity in the area reduces the chances of these positions having been used to any significant extent. 
Based on the aforementioned and the Risk Assessment undertaken, RPS EES therefore recommended that Explosives Safety & Awareness Briefings be implemented in support of any proposed works at the site.

Although not considered to be essential, RPS EES recommended that it may be cost effective and prudent to produce a set of Explosive Ordnance Site Safety Guidelines (ESSG), which can be provided to the client, or future project teams on site, along with training. The ESSG are designed to aid a Project Team to plan the proposed works and potentially deal with the event of a suspicious item/UXO discovery incident. The ESSG would also enable the client to incorporate the Explosives Safety & Awareness Briefings into standard site inductions should any works be undertaken at the site in person.


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