Land contamination in its broadest sense describes a general spectrum of site and soil conditions. It can include areas with elevated levels of naturally occurring substances, as well as specific sites that have been occupied by former industrial uses, which may have left a legacy of contamination from operational activities or from waste disposal.
It can also include areas of land in which substances are present as a result of direct or indirect events, such as accidents, spillages, aerial deposition or migration.
In general terms these circumstances can be described as 'land affected by contamination'. However, for any individual site the land owner or other interested person faces two questions:
The answers to both questions depend to some extent on when the contamination happened.
For 'new' contamination, the accepted principle is that deterioration of the environment needs to be avoided. This principle underlies the approach in legal regimes aimed at controlling potentially polluting activities.
However, government policy recognises that when dealing with past contamination, the opportunity to maintain a clean environment has already passed.
In deciding whether contamination matters, the amount of, or concentration of, any contamination present is always going to be a significant factor, but it does not provide the whole answer. It is also necessary to consider to what extent the substances present may harm human health or the wider environment, including damage to property such as buildings.
In short, what risk, if any, is caused by exposure to the contaminants and is that risk acceptable?
With an industrial history based upon activities such as railway engineering and brick making it is no surprise to learn that some land affected by contamination is likely to be present. However, the opportunity to address this legacy of contamination often arises when the land is redeveloped. Environmental Services play a major role in securing the safe redevelopment of land by working closely with developers and environmental consultants to ensure that land is ‘suitable for use’.
The council has also prepared a Contaminated Land Inspection Strategy [doc] 41KB to fulfil its legal duty under Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
General awareness of land affected by contamination has increased since Part IIA of the Act was introduced in April 2000. Although not a statutory requirement, land condition reports and environmental searches often raise issues relating to the previous use of land and potential purchasers may seek further information from the council.
The council will normally respond to such requests in accordance with the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and a minimum fee of £50.00 + VAT will be imposed. Such requests should preferably be submitted in writing with a suitable plan identifying the land in question. Any requests that are likely to require research in excess of one hour will be charged at a further £50.00 per hour.
Please note that the council does not certify the land as 'free from contamination' because it is relying upon an historical land use dataset rather than site specific sampling and analysis.
For further information please email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone on 01233 331111.