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Land Contamination and the Planning Regime

Why is Land Contamination a Material Planning Consideration?

Contamination of land can occur as a result of former industrial or commercial uses of land or adjacent land and as a result of waste disposal, chemical storage, spills or fly tipping. Contaminants can exist in soil and groundwater for many years and may be found in near surface soils and at depth. Chemicals may not remain static in a particular place, they can move through soils either as liquids, dissolved in water or other chemicals and as gases. Contaminants can also move in association with surface water such as streams or drainage ditches and groundwater. If contaminants are left in place they can result in unacceptable risks to the natural and historic environment, buildings and other property and the health of future occupants.

Developers have a role to play in ensuring that land is suitable for a new use and the planning regime under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, is an important means through which contaminated land investigation and remediation will occur.

What is the Role of the Developer?

The developer is responsible for ensuring that development is safe and suitable for the purpose for which it is intended. The developer is responsible for determining whether land is suitable for a particular development or can be made so by remedial action. In particular, the developer should carry out an adequate investigation to inform a risk assessment to determine:


A developer will need to satisfy the local planning authority that unacceptable risk from contamination will be successfully addressed through remediation without undue environmental impact during and following the development.

The assessment of the presence of contamination and of the significance of the risks that may be posed requires careful professional judgment and competent expert advice. The developer is responsible for ensuring a safe development and secure occupancy of a site and that appropriate competent professional advice is available to:

It is sensible that developers ensure that any advice obtained is from a company that requires continual professional development of their staff and is up to date with new and emerging technologies.

Applicants who wish to submit a planning application on an area of land that has had any former commercial or industrial use are recommended to contact The Contaminated Land Officer to discuss the site prior to submitting an application.

What is the Role of the Local Authority?

Local Planning Authorities are responsible for the preparation of local development frameworks and for the control of development. In doing so, they have a duty to take account o all material planning considerations, including contamination. It is their role to plan for land uses that are appropriate in the light of all the relevant circumstances including known or suspected contamination and to determine applications, including applying and enforcing any necessary conditions.

For further guidance on land contamination and the planning regime including information on what information is required to be submitted with applications and or in response to conditions please refer to our frequently asked questions.


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