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Contaminated land

Picture of a contaminated land puddleIn April 2000 local authorities in England and Wales were given a new statutory duty, under Part 11a of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) 1990 to identify areas of contaminated land and get then cleaned up. This included producing a contaminated land inspection strategy to set out how inspections would be carried out. Our contaminated land inspection strategy for the Borough was approved by the former health and environment committee on 22 May 2001 and published in July 2001.

What is contaminated land?

How does land become contaminated?

Photo of oildrumsIt is any land which we consider there are substances in, on or under that are hazardous to health or the environment.

Contamination is mainly associated with current or past uses of land, particularly where industrial activities, waste disposal and chemical spills contribute to the quantity and type of contaminants on a piece of land. This could be from the industrial revolution to the present day. In some circumstances, earlier industrial processes may have caused persistent contamination of the soil. Chemicals and ground gases can occur naturally in high levels depending upon the rock structures in that area. We take this into account when we consider contamination on a site.

What are the responsibilities of the regulators?

In most circumstances, we will be the regulator for contaminated land sites in the Borough. However for some "special sites" the Environment Agency will be the regulator. The regulator's role is to:

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has specified that investigations have to be rational, ordered and efficient, taking into consideration areas most likely to be affected by contaminants.

How is Fareham Borough Council identifying contaminated land?

We have a duty to inspect the Borough to identify contaminated land. Our pollution team gathers information so that areas where contamination is most likely to exist can be identified and singled out for more detailed investigation and sampling. These tend to be places that have been used for waste disposal and industrial/commercial processes. No one source of information will identify all of them but old maps and trade directories, local authority records, local history books, photographs and first-hand accounts from workers at old industrial sites are helpful. Any land we suspect may be contaminated is compared against current land uses and other environmental information to determine the most sensitive areas. For example land used industrially and covered mainly in concrete is less sensitive than a residential property with a garden, or allotments or nature reserves. Once potential sites have been identified, they are recorded and evaluated based on their potential risk that they can be ranked into high to low priority.

Does this mean any land with a past industrial use will be contaminated?

Not necessarily. Land may have pollutants in, on or under it but they may not be capable of causing unacceptable risks to human health or the environment. We believe that while many former industrial or tipped sites have a potential for contaminants to be in the soil, the majority will remain outside the scope of the legislation.

Who could be affected?

The regime follows the 'polluter pays' principle. Any person, organisation or business might be liable to pay for costs of remediation of contaminated land under Part 11a of EPA 1990. This would be if they caused or knowingly permitted contamination. If we cannot find any polluter, the land's owner or occupier may become responsible for clean-up costs. Regulators must take into consideration several reasons for excluding people from paying for remediation, including hardship.

What will happen when land is identified as contaminated?

The regulator will contact whoever they believe is responsible and will normally discuss the case including liability and remediation requirements. If there is no satisfactory outcome, such as voluntary action, a remediation notice can be served to make sure the land is cleaned up. There must be at least three months between the times anyone thought to be responsible is contacted and served with a notice.

What is Radon?

Radon is a natural radioactive gas that cannot be seen, heard or tasted. It comes from minute amounts of uranium occurring naturally in rocks and soils. It is present in all parts of the UK but geological conditions can lead to higher than average levels in some areas. Some of the highest radon levels have been found in the South West, but levels well above average have been found in other parts of the UK. Exposure to particularly high levels of radon may increase the risk of developing lung cancer. Current building control regulations 2004 require developers to take reasonable precautions to avoid danger to health and safety from contaminants, including Radon, in the ground. You can see requirements in approved document C External Hyperlink.

For more information about Radon, including maps of affected areas and details of a measuring service, see the UKRadon External Hyperlink website.

Are you liable if you buy or sell contaminated land?

If land is formally determined as contaminated, it will be identified on a search carried out during conveyancing. If this is the case you should seek specialist advice. If land has not been formally determined as contaminated land but its history is one of former industrial use, waste disposal or mineral extraction and subsequent in-filling, there is potential for contaminants in the ground. If you are concerned, please contact us.

What will happen if land is redeveloped?

Redevelopment of land affected by contaminants provides an opportunity to improve the local area and environment.  If land has been used or is next to land that has been used for industrial or commercial purposes or waste disposal, developers may be asked to let us know about all former uses on and next to the site and carry out an assessment of potential risks to human health, the environment and building structures. If this identifies potential risks, the developer will be asked to investigate those risks further and, if necessary, to address them and clean up the site. If you wish to develop a site which you suspect may be affected by contaminants, you should contact us to discuss it. Sampling and testing of soil and groundwater and the interpretation of results can be expensive and is best left to professional advisors.


Further information can be found on the DEFRA External Hyperlink or Environment Agency External Hyperlink websites.

If you wish to discuss any land contamination issues or if you have knowledge of former industrial sites and they way they worked within the Fareham Borough please contact us by email or telephone on 01329 236100.


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Fareham Borough Council, Civic Offices, Civic Way, Hampshire, PO16 7AZ
Tel: +44 (0) 1329 236100 | Mobile Text/Photo: 07876 131415 | Fax: +44 (0) 1329 550576
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