Central government introduced legislation in 2000 that required local authorities to make inspections from time to time to identify contaminated land.
What is contaminated land?
Contaminated land is defined as land where:
- significant harm is being caused or there's a significant possibility of such harm being caused, or
- pollution of controlled waters is being, or is likely to be, caused.
The term 'harm' is used here to describe damage to any of the following:
- human beings
- ecological systems and living organisms within a protected site or reserve
- property in the form of crops, produce, livestock, owned or domesticated animals and wild animals which are subject to shooting or fishing rights
- property in the form of buildings, including ancient monuments
Sites identified as contaminated
When a site has been identified as being contaminated, a formal determination process will be followed by having the site 'remediated', or brought to a condition that does not pose a risk of harm.
Responsibility for cleaning up the land
Appropriate persons, identified by us, are liable for all or part of the remediation of the land. There are two classes of appropriate persons:
- class A-appropriate persons are those who cause or knowingly permit the pollutants to be in, on or under the land
- class B-appropriate persons are the owners or occupiers of the land
Where no class A-appropriate persons can be identified, then the class B-appropriate persons may become liable.
Where an appropriate person can no longer be found (the person may have died, or their company gone into liquidation) the enforcing authority may be required to take on the missing person's share of liability and undertake the remedial works themselves. Any other appropriate persons for that piece of contaminated land will still be required to pay their share of the remediation costs.
When we have determined who's responsible, we'll make requirements for the site to be remediated. We'll encourage an informal solution in the first instance. If this can't be reached we have the enforcement powers to bring about a resolution. Whichever way is chosen the details referring to this action will be entered onto a public register.
Does this apply to me?
The contaminated land regime has implications for those who cause or knowingly permit land to be contaminated, or who own or occupy land that is contaminated. This has greater relevance for those in business who may operate a process that could cause contamination. For more information on this take a look at the 'Netregs' environmental guidance.
For home owners who may find themselves in the unlikely situation of being responsible, we have to be fair as to how remediation costs are apportioned. We're governed by strict guidelines to that effect.
If you're about to buy a property but you're concerned that there may be a risk of contamination, then we may be able to provide you with further information from our records.