Some land in this country has been contaminated in the past by industries such as gasworks, tanneries, chemical works and landfills; these are often called brownfield sites.
Brownfield sites can be a problem as there may be harmful substances in, on or under the land and 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.
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'.
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.
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 we do about contaminated land
In being responsible for enforcing the 'contaminated land' legislation, we:
- publish a Contaminated Land Strategy, which outlines how we will find contaminated sites in our area
- carry out inspections of land that may be contaminated
- find out who is responsible for putting right the contamination and discuss the problem with them
- formally declare land as being contaminated
- agree the necessary action and make sure it is carried through with
- keep a Public Register of contaminated land sites containing details of the action required to resolve the issue and any legal action that has been taken
In some cases, the Environment Agency may take over the regulation of a site from us once it has been declared as 'contaminated land'.
Environmental Health and Licensing
01438 242908 / 242916