What is contaminated land?

What is contaminated land?

Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 was inserted by section 57 of the Environment Act 1995, and was introduced in England on 1 April 2000. The primary legislation is implemented by the Contaminated Land (England) Regulations 2000 and by the Contaminated Land Statutory Guidance (April 2012) published by Defra.

Under Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 the statutory definition of contaminated land is:

  • land which appears to the local authority in whose area it is situated to be in such a condition, by reason of substances in, on or under the land, that:
  • significant harm is being caused or there is a significant possibility of such harm being caused; or
  • pollution of controlled waters is being, or is likely to be, caused.

For harm to be caused, or there to be a possibility of harm being caused, there are three key factors that must be present:

  • a contaminant must be present in the soil at a concentration that could cause harm to health (e.g. arsenic),
  • a receptor that could be affected by the contamination (e.g. adults or children),
  • a pathway capable of exposing the receptor to the contaminants in the soil (e.g. dust or soil ingestion, growing of vegetables).

When all three factors are present, it is considered that there is a significant pollutant linkage and it is probable that the land will be classed as contaminated land.

The purpose of this legislation is to deal with the historical legacy of land contamination that has arisen from past, largely industrial, activities. It is retrospective, in that certain persons or companies can be held liable for their actions that occurred in the past. The legislation is consistent with the "polluter pays principle" since it places the financial responsibility for dealing with the contamination with the polluter, where they can be found

Sources of land contamination

Land contamination can arise from naturally occurring contaminants (e.g. caused by the underlying geology), from our industrial legacy or from pollution incidents. Activities such as lead smelting, lime burning, producing town gas, landfill sites, petrol stations, vehicle repair garages, and chemical and engineering works all have the potential to contaminate the land on, or around, which they are situated. Accidents such as chemical leaks or domestic oil tank leaks also have the potential to contaminate land. Some contaminants will degrade overtime, but many will remain in the soil and may pose a risk to human health.

More information on naturally occurring contaminants can be found on the Contaminated Land FAQs page.

Identifying contaminated land within our local authority boundary

Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 ("Part IIA") was introduced to provide a system for the identification and remediation of land where contamination is causing, or is likely to cause, an unacceptable risk to human health or the wider environment.

Under Part IIA, all councils had an additional duty to produce a 'Contaminated Land Inspection Strategy' by July 2001 to identify all areas of land that are potentially contaminated within each local authority boundary.

The council has produced a Contaminated Land Inspection Strategy, which is available to download below, explaining how we intend to fulfil our duties under Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to identify, inspect and remediate contaminated land.

This strategy was revised in early 2007, and an updated version can be downloaded from the related documents section. The strategy is currently being reviewed following the publication of revised Contaminated Land Statutory Guidance (April 2012) published by Defra.

The district council will identify historic sites that may have resulted in land contamination and may complete a site investigation either through the Contaminated Land Regime or through a planning condition. Site investigations can involve soil sampling, groundwater sampling and the assessment of ground gas. The results of these are used with a conceptual site model to identify the risks posed to human health and the wider environment.

Once land is determined as contaminated, its details are entered into a Contaminated Land Public Register. Currently no sites have been determined as contaminated within Derbyshire Dales, and accordingly there are no entries on the Public Register.

Officers also advise Planning colleagues and developers to ensure that new developments, or material changes of use, are undertaken in such a way to ensure that the land is suitable for its proposed use and poses no risk to human health or the wider environment

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