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Topographic Land Surveys: it's all in the detail!

Updated: Jan 31

When it comes to obtaining accurate survey drawings of your site, it can be a lengthy and costly process. Especially if your choice of survey provider quotes you for ‘all bells and whistles’. Not only does this approach to surveying add potentially unnecessary costs and lengthier survey times, but it can also cause frustration and confusion about the best and most cost-effective approach to surveying your individual project’s needs.


2D topographic survey deliverable
2D topographic survey deliverable

Whether clients need a basic outline block plan to assist with planning applications, land registry compliant plans to help with a land transfer, or a full topographic survey for the more complicated engineering designs, SUMO is on hand to help. Relying on repeat business we always aim to provide an honest assessment of the level of detail, which best suits your requirements. We ensure that you receive a survey deliverable that fully satisfies your project needs. So whether this is a simple drawing or an all-singing, all-dancing deliverable, we can help!


What levels of detail are available?


An elementary Block Plan is often all that is required for planning applications. As well as for clients who wish to get a simple visualisation of their site area. Such plans are generally provided in scales of 1:100, 1:200 or 1:500. They show the outline of any existing buildings, boundary features and adjacent roads. This simple level of detail is often adequate to help position and visualise potential developments.


To produce a Block Plan survey drawing, the survey is positioned on to the OS grid and datum. This is using the GPS virtual reference station (VRS) to relate the survey to the broader area, in a correct spatial position within the UK. Having a datum value relatable to the OS grid (the height above sea level based on a known datum point at Newlyn Harbour in Cornwall) also helps relate the survey to the wider area. It can be of increased relevance for schemes near water, where flooding can be of concern.



Topographic survey
Detailed topographic survey deliverable including road markings, road text and utility survey information.

Some clients have concerns with the relationship between one part of their site to another. In these cases, the survey can relate to an ‘arbitrary’ grid and localised site datum for an engineer to relate to, such as a floor level or service cover.


By contrast, Land registry compliant surveys do not ordinarily require ground levels to be surveyed at all. They are often concerned with the plotting of buildings, walls, fences and other salient features. This can help position overlaid title plans to establish correct boundary positions.


topographic survey at site

Wherever possible, SUMO will look to provide a full and comprehensive topographic survey for its clients. Our surveyors aim to map all accessible features visible above ground. This includes basic site features of existing buildings, walls, fences, surface changes, vegetation, tree positions and utility service covers. SUMO’s surveyors will survey ground levels at a nominal interval (these intervals will typically be 5 – 10m but can be client-led depending on necessity). As well as any significant changes in ground levels such as banking or slopes, to produce a comprehensive ground profile.


For highway schemes, clients will very often require mapping of all road markings with road text added to the drawing to assess traffic implications caused by any future design and access changes. The detail is not limited to access features. Using Direct Reflex technology, the survey can include details such as surrounding building heights and position, tree heights, overhead wires and bridge soffits.


How might SUMO present the data collected on my site?


SUMO’s survey data can be presented in both 2D and 3D formats
X, Y, Z Axis

SUMO’s survey data can be presented in both 2D and 3D formats. A 2D survey is presented as a basic drawing with values in X and Y, with the Z value as a piece of text. In contrast, survey data can be presented as 3D models (in BIM-ready formats compatible with software such as Revit if required) that include the Z value on each surveyed point and issued as a triangulated irregular network (TIN). This is a representation of a continuous surface consisting entirely of triangular facets for use in various modelling software. But, surveying in 3D requires more survey points to be collected while on-site, also features to represent the site profile more accurately.

Whatever the project, SUMO aims to complete deliverables to the highest possible standards. We do this in a cost-effective and timely manner to suit each client's individual projects.

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