Home News Historic Photography drives Swale’s contamination search

Historic Photography drives Swale’s contamination search

The GeoInformation Group, publishers of Cities Revealed high-resolution aerial photography, has supplied Swale Borough Council with a department licence of historic photographic imagery for use by its contaminated land (team). Under Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, all local authorities are now obliged to locate and remediate any contaminated land within their jurisdiction. The historic aerial photography now plays a key role in the search for potentially contaminated land in the Borough of Swale as it provides its officers with a unique landscape record from the WWII era showing past land uses not indicated on conventional maps. The data, supplied as a 1m resolution, black and white digital database, identifies a wide range of features on the ground including; temporary structures, waste heaps, unofficial dumps and other ‘soft’ features. When viewed on the council’s GIS, MapInfo, in combination with other data sets such as historic Ordnance Survey maps, the imagery provides environmental officers with a remarkably detailed snapshot of industrial activity within many individual sites. A spokesperson for the Environmental Services Unit commented, “The factual evidence and time saved in using this data has already proven to be excellent value for money when compared with that spent on other historic data sets. It has been found that the aerial imagery enhances the detail and often fills the gaps in the information shown on Ordnance Survey maps of the same period.” The photography has already helped Swale to reveal building and engineering works damage that occurred during WWII. This information has provided conclusive evidence of possible contamination that only a rapidly diminishing resource -eyewitnesses testimony- could otherwise provide. Such photography is therefore of growing value in corroborating or correcting assumptions and conclusions drawn from maps and historic accounts. The knowledge now being gleaned from the historical imagery and other sources is enabling the officers at Swale to identify potentially contaminated sites across the Borough as legally required.