Contaminated land legislation was introduced in England in April 2000 as Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
The definition of contaminated land is:
“any land which appears to the local authority in whose area it is situated to be in such a condition, by reasons of substances in, or under the land, that -
(a) significant harm is being caused or there is a significant possibility of such harm being caused; or
(b) significant pollution of controlled waters is being caused, or there is a significant possibility of such pollution being caused;…”
Previous land uses have left a legacy of contamination across the country and the above legislation has been developed to ensure such problems are addressed for the wellbeing and safety of human health and the environment.
Contamination can be caused by a wide range of activities, including engineering, mining, railways, infilling of land, military use, transport depots to name but a few. Contamination is not always man made, and can be caused by elevated levels or naturally occurring substances, such as arsenic or methane. Radioactivity is also considered within Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
Contaminated land issues in Lincoln are dealt with by the Environmental Health - Pollution Control section.
We are required to inspect our area to identify contaminated land. In order to do this, we are required to produce inspection strategies detailing how we would undertake these duties. We maintain a public register with the details of the sites that have been identified as statutory contaminated land.
We have developed an inspection strategy which details how we identify and investigate sites that may be potentially contaminated. Sites which are a potential concern have been identified and prioritised into an order for inspection. A public register of sites, which have been inspected and subsequently identified as 'contaminated land', is available online and a copy is also held at City Hall for members of the public to view.
It is important to note that just because a site has been identified as a potential concern does not mean it is contaminated or that it is placed on the register. Detailed investigations have to be undertaken first to determine whether a site meets the statutory definition of contaminated land above. The Statutory Guidance for contaminated land was revised in 2012.
We also work closely with the Environment Agency especially where there is, or there is the potential for, contamination of water bodies.
Contaminated land and the planning process
Many sites where contamination may be present are addressed through the planning process. The National Planning Policy Framework, paragraphs 120 and 121 cover contaminated land. Planning policies and decisions should ensure that the site is suitable for its new use; that after remediation the land, as a minimum, should not be capable of being determined as Part 2A land and adequate site investigation information, prepared by a competent person is presented.
We (the Contaminated Land section) are consulted through the planning process on all applications where contaminated land needs to be considered and provides advice to the planning officers
Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Pollution Advisory Group (YALPAG) have produced a useful planning guidance booklet to assist in understanding the requirements of developing land which may be affected by contamination. The guidance discusses the different stages of investigation and includes details of what the Council expects to see submitted in support of an application.
Where a small development is planned, for example, one house within a garden, developers may find it useful to complete a screening assessment form to help decide whether a contaminated land study is required. Please complete the form and submit it with the planning application.
A common form of remediation particularly for residential developments is the use of a cover system. Removing a certain depth of soil for example in garden areas, protecting against contact with any contamination at depth with a membrane or aggregate layer then importing soil which has been demonstrated to be chemically suitable. YALPAG has produced a verification guidance document to assist in understanding what is required in verification reports where such a system has been used.
The potential presence of ground gases (such as, methane, carbon dioxide) can also be an issue for development sites and requires consideration and possibly investigation. Where gas protection is required, correct design and installation is paramount.
Following the publication of Ciria C735, ‘Good practice on the testing and verification of protection systems for buildings against hazardous ground gases’, YALPAG has issued a guidance document on the verification of gas protection systems detailing the level of information expected to be submitted.
The preparation of land contamination reports under the voluntary National Quality Mark Scheme for Land Contamination Management (NQMS) should provide increased confidence to the applicant that the submitted report will be of a suitable standard to gain approval first time from the contaminated land team.
For further information please visit the NQMS website.
The contaminated land team welcome the opportunity to discuss any development proposals for land which may be affected by contamination prior to submission of a planning application.
Contaminated land and the building control process
The potential for contamination to exist on a site is also considered within the building control process. We work closely with Building Control Officers to ensure any matters relating to contamination are adequately addressed. The Building Control team should be contacted with regard to protection measures in buildings for radon.
Contaminated land enquiries
The issue of potential contamination can arise when buying and selling property. Solicitors and conveyancers often commission an environmental search by a third party search company when arranging the sale or purchase of a property. When looking at contamination the search company sometimes requests further action, depending on proximity to any sites where potential contamination could be present. Where ‘further action’ is recommended clients are usually advised to contact their local authority for more information regarding the property/site.
We can provide information relating to the status of the site under Part 2A, past historical uses of the site and in the vicinity, details of any contaminated land investigation undertaken for planning applications on the site or nearby as well as any other pertinent local information we may hold. It should be noted however that this does not necessarily mean the information provided would lead to the site passing the search. This information can also be provided to environmental consultancies when undertaking site investigation work and due diligence reports.
A charge is made for providing this information. Please contact the Contaminated Land team for more information.