Contaminated Land

Land contamination results from historic land use that has left a legacy of pollution in a particular area of ground. The Council has endeavoured to find all potential sites in the borough that maybe affected by land contamination. As land uses change or development occurs the planning process offers opportunities to locate funding for the remediation of contaminated land.

Contaminated land and the law

The Contaminated Land regime is a statutory system of requirements set out through the Environmental Protection Act 1990, Section 78. All councils must actively seek to identify sites in their areas that may have been contaminated in the past.

The late 18th century to the 20th century saw the Calder Valley emerge as an important industrial centre. Processes such as mining, waste disposal and manufacturing have left contamination such as heavy metals, fuels and mining wastes in or on the land. This has lead to the current legacy of potentially contaminated land.

The contaminated land regime, also known as Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act, was introduced in 1995. It provides a legislative framework for dealing with contaminated land. It explicitly addresses the identification of contaminated sites, how remediation is brought about, and who pays for it. The regime was brought into force in England on 1st April 2000.

Section 78A(2) of Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 19902 defines “contaminated land” as

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

This guidance goes on to define harm as

"harm to health of living organisms or other interference with ecological systems of which they form a part".

This can also include harm to property.

Duties of Local Authorities under the contaminated land regime

The Government is currently reviewing Local Authorities' statutory duties, but what follows is a summary of the current position.

Contaminated land strategy

According to the regime Local Authorities are required to inspect their area 'from time to time' for the purposes -

  • of identifying contaminated land. Once contaminated land is identified it is then determined
  • of enabling the authority to decide whether any such land is land which is required to be designated as a special site.

In doing this guidance states that they should be guided by an inspection strategy so that the approach undertaken is rational, ordered and efficient. They also act as enforcing authority for all contaminated land which is not designated as a special site.

Although Local Authorities have sole responsibility for determining land as contaminated, the Environment Agency is responsible for the subsequent regulation of certain Part 2A sites. These are designated as 'special sites'. These sites may be contaminated by virtue of the pollution of controlled waters, or the contamination by certain processes or are sites owned by the Ministry of Defence.

The application of the inspection strategies should lead to areas of potentially contaminated land being identified with those with the most pressing and serious problems being prioritised. Such sites are then subjected to a detailed investigation and risk assessment in accordance with the best practice guidance published in Contaminated Land Report 11 to decide whether the site should be determined as 'contaminated land'.

Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council's Contaminated Land Strategy is currently being updated. If you need advice relating to the Strategy at this time please contact Environmental Health.

When is land "Contaminated Land"?

In order for contaminated land to exist, the Local Authority must satisfy itself that a pollution linkage exists in relation to land. A pollution linkage comprises three separate components:

  1. a source of contamination
  2. a receptor for that contamination to affect and,
  3. a pathway capable of exposing a receptor to the contaminant source.

The Local Authority must then satisfy itself that the pollution linkage is significant and must consider the degree of possibility or likelihood of significant harm and the pollution of controlled waters. Unless all three elements of a pollutant linkage are present land cannot be determined as contaminated.

Methods for identifying contaminated land include searching through historical maps, using all available local knowledge through historic societies, current land use modelling and Trade directories of previous industrial uses of areas of land in the borough.

The Council's Pollution Control Officers have located all likely sites that may have been contaminated by past / present uses and have then risk assessed the potential for these sites to cause problems to residents of the Borough. This research is constantly being altered and sites come on to the list and drop off the list as information in sought, received and investigated.

This service does not release the list to the general public as it may cause inappropriate blight to any given area of land. This risk assessment process has lead to the formation of a list of potentially contaminated sites that are taken into account in making planning decisions. Sites of the highest concern are investigated or funding is sought to investigate these sites and remediation is carried out where needed.

Further information

Statutory Instruments, guidance and official updates can be found at the GOV.UK site Contaminated Land.

See also