Contaminated land

Who is responsible for contaminated land?


    Land may be contaminated by accidents or spills, leaking underground storage tanks, past industrial uses and waste disposal.

    You could be responsible for land contamination, for example, if you:

    • develop land that is contaminated
    • cause environmental damage to land
    • cause contamination in breach of your pollution prevention and control (PPC) permit

    Common types of land contamination

    Land contamination is a general term that describes land that is contaminated, for example, by substances such as:

    • heavy metals, eg arsenic, cadmium and lead
    • oils and tars
    • chemical substances and preparations, eg solvents
    • gases
    • asbestos
    • radioactive substances

    Land development responsibilities

    You could be required to clean up land contamination before you are allowed to carry out development.

    You will need to show the Planning Service that you have assessed the contamination risks to health and the environment when you submit your planning application. If contamination is identified at the site, you must submit and agree a remediation strategy with the Planning Service that will make the site suitable for the proposed use. You will have to carry out the remediation as a condition of your planning approval.

    Environmental damage responsibilities

    You could be responsible for land contamination if it is classed as environmental damage and was caused on or after 24 July 2009.

    Land contamination may be classed as environmental damage if it creates a significant risk of harm to human health, or has serious adverse effects on the water environment or the biodiversity of protected species or habitats. If your activities cause, or could cause, land contamination that is classed as environmental damage you will have to prevent or remediate (clean up) such damage.

    For information on how the environmental liability regime applies to land, water, and protected species and habitats, see pollution incidents and environmental damage.

    You may also have liabilities to clean up land contamination under other legislation - see responsibilities for land contamination.

    Permit responsibilities

    You could also be responsible for land contamination if it is caused by you breaching your PPC permit - see environmental permits and licences - an overview.