What’s in your backyard? Right now, amongst other things, mine has a dog, a barbecue and the heating oil tank. But, have you ever needed to know environmentally-speaking what is in your own back yard?
I regularly get asked this question; maybe to help on a student assignment or a prospective homebuyer who needs answers for their mortgage. So where do you start?
Well it helps if you know what you want to ask for? Too general (“Can you tell me all the environmental stuff that’s happening in my neighbourhood?”) and you will either get swamped with information or find nothing of use. In fact, the web can be a cursed place when you ask too general a question.
So, first it helps to know a little about what information is available and where it’s held. One great starting point is called unsurprisingly “What’s in your backyard?” on the Environment Agency website. Here, you can find maps on flood risk, maps on landfill sites, maps on industrial pollution, air pollution, underground water and so on.
For those of you wanting a broader perspective and have time to kill, the GOV.UK website is a good route into government published environmental statistics. Be warned, there is a lot published and you could lose yourself.
The third route to environmental information is by specific enquiry. Here I must declare an interest; councils and other public bodies receive enquiries for information all the time, some to do with the environment. More and more of this information is being published on the web but there will be times when for various reasons it isn’t. That does not stop you requesting and generally the information will be available but it’s well worth reading through any advice on how best to make a request. Check first before you compose your letter or e-mail that you asking the right organisation. Be aware there may be certain occasions where there will be a cost to providing a response to your question.
Finally, allow yourself a bit of time. With the best will in the world, your question may take a bit of to answer, whether it’s you doing the digging or someone like me.
This advice comes from years of bitter experience dealing with distressed homebuyers with impossible deadlines to get their mortgage signed off. Before you get to this situation, make sure you have allowed time in your moving plan for the unexpected before signing on the dotted line for your ideal home. But, that’s another story for a future article.
What’s in your backyard? - apps.environment-agency.gov.uk/wiyby/default.aspx
GOV.UK statistics – www.gov.uk/government/statistics
-- Peter Gudde is environment manager for St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath councils.