Contaminated Land

The definition of contaminated land under Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 is based upon the principles of risk assessment. “Risk” is defined as the combination of:

  • The probability, or frequency, of occurrence of a defined hazard (for example, exposure to a property of a substance with the potential to cause harm)

  • The magnitude (including the seriousness) of the consequences.

There are thousands of sites across the UK that have become contaminated by previous industrial use. Land contamination may be associated with traditional processes that are now obsolete.

Development of contaminated land has become a necessity as the need for development out strips the supply of land. Government targets demand that 60% of all new houses should be built on brownfield sites, yet some of these sites will be affected by contamination which will require a budget to clean the site or alternatives to be found.

Residential estate agents and the valuers of residential property have a poorly developed knowledge concerning contaminated land.

The Environment Agency estimates the number of contaminated sites in the UK to be between 5,000 and 20,000. Under the Part IIA regime, local authorities have started work to identify all contaminated land in their areas. So far around 35 sites have been determined, but the first round of inspections are not expected to finish until about 2006 in some local authority areas.

In applying the definition of contaminated land to a site, the local authority must satisfy itself that both:

  • A pollutant linkage exists in respect of a piece of land; and

  • That the pollutant linkage:

    • Is resulting in significant harm being caused to the receptor in the pollutant linkage

    • Presents a significant possibility of significant harm being caused to that receptor

    • Is resulting in the pollution of the controlled waters which constitute the receptor, or is likely to result in such pollution

In the past, the problems of contaminated land have been tackled almost exclusively in the context of redevelopment where there was the objective of economic benefit linked to environmental enhancement.

Part IIA means that local authorities now have a responsibility to proactively inspect their areas and ensure the remediation of any contaminated land.

Related Articles:

Contaminated Land - Frequently Asked Questions

Land Remediation

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