2.2 Planning your surveys (Project and Site Assessment)
Managing a survey project
Effective path surveys do not just happen. There are a number of developmental, implementation and completion stages that need to be carried out. The following sections suggest the steps that a client should consider before commissioning survey work and the points that should be considered during a survey.
Prior to survey
Prior to the survey ensure that:
- you have resources/funds available to undertake the survey;
- suitably qualified and experienced personnel are available;
- the aims and objectives are clear;
- you prepare a brief describing the management of the survey;
- you agree a detailed work programme.
A number of organisations may provide grant aid for path project development, such as local enterprise companies, Scottish Natural Heritage and lottery distributors. The organisation commissioning the survey may be able to support the project from within existing budgets.
Ensure that any staff or contractors undertaking survey work are suitably qualified and experienced, and that they understand the processes that give rise to path damage and how to ameliorate their effect at appropriate levels of intervention. It is now possible to do an UPAG approved Level 3/4 SVQ with NTS. The surveyor should be familiar with UPAG principles for upland path work in Scotland and be aware that upland pathwork is part of a much wider environmental conservation agenda. Any recommendations, implicit or implied, should be considered in this context.
Be clear about what you are trying to achieve, what you expect to use the survey information for and how you intend to use it.
The brief should be used as a management statement and to monitor progress throughout the survey. Useful topics to cover include:
- Background to the study: Explain why the survey is being commissioned; for example, it may be to gain an objective overview of path condition within a given area, or it may be to provide a specification prior to undertaking path repairs.
- Aims and objectives of the survey: State the overall aim and specific objectives; for example, the aim of the project may be to determine the scale of the footpath erosion problem within a given area and to provide an indicative estimate of the cost of repair works. This information could then be used to apply for funds to undertake a strategic programme of works. Objectives may be slightly more specific, such as determining priorities for repair work needed or to provide specifications and outline costings for work required on sections of path most needing repair.
- Existing information: Previous surveys, photographic evidence, historical records.
- Methods: Describe precisely what information you require and how you wish it to be collected. This may include what equipment you expect the surveyor to use, how often and at what intervals you expect features to be recorded, etc.
- Description of areas and routes: Include maps and grid references and refer to any areas of particular interest.
- Any potential sensitivities: Ensure that staff and contractors are aware of any site sensitivities, including those associated with land ownership and management.
- Suitable personnel: Ensure that any staff or contractors undertaking survey work are suitably qualified and experienced and understand the processes that give rise to path damage and how to ameliorate their impacts at appropriate levels of intervention.
- Outputs: Clearly state the information you wish to be included in the final report and indicate how you would like the report to be set out. Also, clarify what format you wish the report to be in and how many copies you require.
- Timescale: State when you wish the work to be undertaken and when it should be completed. Note any critical times which may affect progress, such as the stalking season or snow cover.
- Health and safety: Survey work is usually undertaken alone, sometimes in remote mountain areas across difficult terrain, and this throws up a number of health and safety issues. Identify responsibilities for health and safety and ensure that a risk assessment is prepared of the activities involved in the work. Discuss risks involved and their management with those involved prior to commencement of field survey.
- Reporting and liaison: State at what stages and how often you require to meet with the consultant or staff member. Clarify what you wish to discuss at each meeting and what you want to get out of it. Record who the point of contact should be. Good communication is essential, but remember (especially if you are employing a consultant) that meetings cost money and time.
- Resources and duties: Clearly describe what information and resources will be supplied by the client and what will be supplied by the consultant. In addition to survey work, duties may include contacting land owners to gain permission for access to survey paths on their land.
It is worth carrying out the above steps whether you intend doing the survey ‘in house’ or through competitive tender. This will ensure that staff are clear how the survey is to be undertaken and the outputs that are expected. These steps will clarify staff responsibilities and relationships.
Before the survey starts, agree a detailed schedule of work, finalise timings and make any amendments to the survey method and paths to be surveyed that may have come to light during the project development phase.
During the survey
- Monitor and review health and safety.
- Maintain regular contact with field staff.
- Review progress on fieldwork and initial results.
- Review progress and discuss the reporting format.
- Comment on the draft final report.
Regular and effective communication should be maintained between the client and the survey or consultancy staff in order to identify any problems that may arise and to make sure that the survey produces relevant information in an acceptable format.
Timescales may be affected by poor weather or a problem may arise with the survey method. Regular contact is necessary for effective monitoring of health and safety issues.
Owing to the unusual nature of the work and particular hazards that are present, health and safety issues should be constantly monitored. There are a number of issues which should be of particular concern, such as lone workers, effectiveness of reporting procedures, identification of potential hazards such as burn crossings prior to the survey, weather conditions, length of working day, etc.
Continuing assessment of risk management should identify whether safety is being managed effectively. If risk cannot be managed effectively using current controls then new procedures must be devised.
Continue to review progress and discuss and agree the report contents and reporting format. The format should be compatible with its final use. Some funding organisations prefer reports to be produced in certain formats. Ensure that the key issues which you wish to convey are clearly identified and will reach their target audience. Circulate draft copies to the relevant individuals or organisations for comment and feedback and edit accordingly.
Completion of survey
Once the survey is completed there are four issues that need to be addressed:
- writing the report;
- circulating the report;
- project appraisal;
After completion of fieldwork and report drafts produce a final report. For a one-off specification this may simply be a site assessment, site specification in sketch format and a bill of quantity. For a complex Amber-type survey this may run to more than one volume and contain a summarised version, survey data, description of methodology, etc.
Ensure that copies are circulated to relevant individuals and organisations, especially land managers and owners whose property the results may affect.
Review the various stages of the survey process and assess the quality of the finished product. For example:
- were there problems during the fieldwork stage that could be avoided if you undertake a similar project in the future?;
- did the final report provide exactly the information that you needed? Could the method have been refined?
Surveys are not an end in themselves but form part of a larger planning process. As considerable effort and resources will have gone in to producing the survey, it is important that it is used and not filed away. Just because a survey has been completed does not necessarily mean that path repairs will follow. A survey should be used as objective evidence to decide to prioritise and if appropriate, action a project.
Because of the specialised nature of path survey work, it is more common for path surveys to be undertaken by freelance or consultancy companies than by in-house staff. It is usual, therefore ,for there to be a client–contractor relationship between the organisation or individual managing the project and the field survey staff actually conducting the fieldwork.
The nature of some duties and responsibilities will coincide, but it is likely that surveyors’ priorities will differ from those of the client. In addition, it is usual for surveyors to tender for work. These contractual details are dealt with in Section 4: Using contracts to build paths.
Prior to survey
The surveyors must be clear about the aims and objectives of the project. In particular, they should clarify survey details including:
- reporting arrangements;
- health and safety issues;
- resources and duties.
Although the surveyor’s role is largely reactive during this stage of the project, there is the opportunity to influence its execution, and the input of practical experience at this stage is most useful. Comment on timescales, difficulties in collecting certain types of data and usefulness of various data sets based on previous experience are all of great help.
During the survey
Before commencement of fieldwork
- Produce a Risk Assessment and Safety Plan in order to manage health and safety during the project. Because of the lone working element of survey fieldwork, special attention should be paid to ‘reporting in’ procedures.
- Obtain all necessary permissions; these may include access consent from land owners/managers, but permission may also be required if a site is covered by a statutory designation, such as for nature conservation or historical preservation.
- Produce a clear brief with objectives, design considerations and rationale behind the path survey.
During survey fieldwork
- Monitor health and safety and incorporate any modifications required into the health and safety management system.
- Undertake a trial survey, preferably with the client, to ensure that you agree on survey techniques.
- Review progress on fieldwork and initial results. Ensure that the data collected will be suitable for future analysis and use. Ensure that fieldwork is progressing as expected and that the survey will be completed within the timescale and resources allocated.
- Maintain regular contact with the client and promptly report any cases where data cannot be obtained in accordance with the agreed method, for example if the survey method is not suitable for prevailing ground conditions or if permission cannot be obtained to undertake a path survey.
- Develop the survey technique, if required, to take account of unforeseen circumstances.
- The field survey is the stage of the project during which the surveyor will have greatest influence on the project. The surveyor will be required to exercise judgement based on experience of path-forming processes on numerous occasions and will have to be capable of using that experience to solve problems as they arise.
During and after completion of fieldwork
It will be necessary to:
- discuss and agree report format;
- produce a clean copy of survey documents;
- produce a final copy of the report after completing draft stages and consultation.
Depending on the scope of the project the final report may be an individual or collaborative effort. On larger projects the client will obviously be heavily involved in devising the report format and will want to ensure that relevant topics are included. Surveyors should be able to use their field experience to hypothesise about path development, condition and management requirements and should use the data collected to support these. However, they must be clear on what the client’s objectives are.
One-off specification surveys, on the other hand, may simply include a site sketch, bill of quantities and a page or two of text. In this case it would be common for the surveyor to complete this work on his or her own.