Contaminated land

Some land in this country has been contaminated in the past by industries such as:

  • gasworks
  • tanneries
  • chemical works
  • landfills

These are often called brownfield sites.

Also see Local Plan

The problem

Brownfield sites can be a problem for two reasons:

  • there may be harmful substances in, on or under the land
  • water pollution might be caused by substances at the site

However, brownfield sites do not generally cause a problem unless they are redeveloped for a different use.

'Pollutant linkage'

Land is only declared 'contaminated' if:

  • it contains a source of pollution - the source and
  • someone (or something) could be affected by the pollutant - the receptor and
  • the pollution can get to the 'receptor' - the pathway

These three elements together are known as the pollutant linkage.

Action required

If you own or occupy contaminated land now, or you did in the past, you may be responsible for cleaning up the pollution. You may still be responsible for cleaning up the pollution after you have sold the land.

Some contamination can be a hazard to current occupants or neighbours and the law says the problem must be put right immediately.

Who pays?

The law follows the 'polluter pays' principle - the person or organisation that caused or permitted the contamination must pay to have it put right. If that person or organisation is not known, then the current owner of the land may become responsible.

Owners and occupiers of domestic properties are not usually liable for these costs.

Re-use of brownfield sites

The approval of an application for redevelopment of these sites will only be granted on condition that the contamination is cleaned up to a standard that makes it suitable for the new use of the land.

You should obtain specialist advice from an environmental consultant or a specialist lawyer before you buy or sell contaminated land.

What the local council does about contaminated land

The council is responsible for enforcing the 'contaminated land' legislation. We:

  • publish a Contaminated Land Strategy, which says how it will find contaminated sites in its area
  • carry out inspections of land that may be contaminated
  • finds out who is responsible for putting right the contamination and discuss the problem with them
  • formally declare land contaminated
  • agree the necessary action and makes sure it is done
  • keep a Public Register of contaminated land sites, the action that was required to put the problem right and any legal action that has been taken.

In some cases the Environment Agency may take over the regulation of a site from the council, once it has been declared as 'contaminated land'.


Useful links

Environment Agency

Stevenage Borough Council is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Related pages

Local Plan

Contact details

Environmental Health & Licensing
Stevenage Borough Council
Daneshill House

01438 242908 / 242916