Why a school needed a UXO watching brief

A watching brief is when an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) engineer watches works; here's why a school in Kent needed one.

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As a highly experienced unexploded ordnance (UXO) and explosive threat mitigation service provider, Igne is well-known for its sizeable, long-term, complex projects – such as London City Airport and the Falkland Islands to name but two.

These land and marine projects require a huge amount of logistical expertise and planning before they even begin – never mind the manpower on the ground and the range of skilled personnel we provide to survey, identify clear etc.

But, not all of our jobs are so complex…

Sometimes all a client needs is a watching brief.

In this article, discover why a school in Kent is the latest to benefit from this valuable service.

What is a watching brief?

A watching brief is when an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) engineer quite literally watches works, such as shallow excavations on a brownfield site, and is available to identify or discount anything that’s unearthed that looks suspicious.

A watching brief can save a client significant time and money, keeping projects on track, avoiding unnecessary downtime and critically, ensuring site personnel are safe. 

Despite the nature of a watching brief being straightforward, when it comes to ordnance that has been designed to maim or kill, we treat all clients and all projects equally seriously, committing the same level of committed service whether we’re clearing a nation or simply watching a single site. 

A watching brief for Westlands School in Sittingbourne

When we were asked by Westlands School in Sittingbourne, Kent to support them with building works, we were delighted to oblige, and a watching brief was recommended for the first phase of work.

The school is about to start an extension program which we will support with more extensive services, but prior to full construction, they just needed to place some temporary classrooms on site and extend pathways by digging down 0.5m. 

What’s the point of a watching brief?

Igne’s Business Development Manager Carl Davenport went to Sittingbourne to learn more about the watching brief process, and describes the works and the value of them: 

“I was curious and wanted to understand why Westlands needed such an experienced professional on site when they were only digging to such a shallow depth.  I met with our onsite EOD engineer Dougie Martin who told me that quite a few factors meant it was important to ensure we remained at the school, watching over the shallow excavations. 

“Firstly, there had already been a WWII bomb found within 50m of the current site, placing it at risk.  Secondly, this was no exceptional find because German pilots were known to ‘tip & run’ on their way home after targeted bombing raids.  This meant that they would get to Kent and the coast and just release any remaining bombs randomly, meaning contamination risk is medium to high across the county.

“Another significant factor that Dougie explained was the clay ground conditions on this site.  Clay expands and shrinks over time and objects that were buried deeply, such as an air-dropped bomb, can rise towards the surface over many years, or even be found in a different location to where they originally fell.

“I’m delighted to report that the site’s initial works were all completed safely however, and everyone is now gearing up for the 2nd phase to begin on site later in the year.”

In conclusion… 

A watching brief can be a cost-effective, comprehensive, and immediate solution to the complex UXO problems our clients face.  It’s just one of in a full suite of services we can provide to keep you safe and your project on track.  To discuss the best approach for your forthcoming project, give our team a call today, they’d be delighted to advise you.