Contaminated land can really put a spanner in the works when it comes to developing a site.

It’s one of the last things you would want to discover as a developer or builder. But, land contamination doesn’t necessarily mean you have to write the land off for future works.

Before we dive into whether or not you can build on contaminated land, let’s first cover what contaminated land is.

What is contaminated land?

Contaminated land is land that has been polluted by substances that could cause significant harm to people or the wider environment. It is also land where substances could cause significant pollution to surface waters or groundwater.

In fact, contaminated land can refer to any land which has been contaminated by substances such as:

  • Heavy metals
  • Oils and tars
  • Asbestos
  • Waste chemicals
  • Radioactive substances

Where are you likely to find contaminated land?

  • Former factories
  • Mines
  • Steelworks
  • Refineries
  • Landfills
  • Railways
  • Military bases

How to find out if a site has contaminated land?

At Your Environment, we’re specialists in finding out if your land is contaminated and what with. You will also likely need us to liaise with the Local Authority regarding any planning conditions that you may have regarding Contaminated Land.

You can also use these information sources to determine whether a site has contaminated land:

  • Previous Local Authority Survey Information
  • National Land Use Database
  • Environmental Statements
  • Historical Mapping

What steps to take if you want to build on a contaminated site?

So, you have found a plot of land that seems perfect for your development but you think there could be contamination present. What now?

The first thing you should do is get in touch with your local authority. Specifically the environmental health and planning departments. They are the people who will guide you through the steps you need to take before you can submit your planning application. And if you run into any issues like knowing how to make contaminated land, then they will refer you to us.

If controlled waters on your site are likely to also have contamination issues we can also contact the Environment Agency for you.

The land will may remediation to return the site to a suitable state to build on. It’s possible that during our investigations, even if contamination is found that we can remove the risk to the receptor and therefore eliminate the cost of remediation. So, you must speak to everyone involved as early as you can so that you can determine the remediation requirements.

Can the local authority refuse planning permission for contaminated land?

Yes. For contaminated land to receive planning permission, it must meet certain conditions set out by the local authority.

These conditions will outline what you need to do to reduce the risk of contamination to an acceptable level. This is where we can help!

As the developer, it is your responsibility to make sure you complete these steps.

What happens if contamination is found after you start building?

If you find contamination after you start building, you are responsible for the expenses to remediate the land.

Even though whoever caused the contamination should be responsible for footing the bill, it can be difficult to locate them. That is because the contamination is likely to have happened a long time ago and the responsibility passes to the new owner.

Is it safe for people to live on contaminated land?

Despite the risks associated with living on a site that has been used for industrial purposes being low, it may be unsafe to live on some contaminated land.

Some contaminants are extremely corrosive and can even cause fires or explosions. Not only that, contaminated land may expose its inhabitants to dangerous contaminants in the form of dust, gases or soil. It can even be present in any food grown on the site.

Next steps

Your local authority can provide advice but ultimately it is your responsibility to address concerns.

Finding a reputable company that can test for and provide sound advice on contaminated land should be the top of your agenda. This is because sampling, testing and interpretation of the results requires a specialist.

At Your Environment, we provide cost-effective land contamination solutions at every step of the way.

To speak to one of our friendly team about how we can help with your project, get in touch.