Contaminated land is land that has become
polluted as a result of a present or previous industrial activity.
Contaminated material can affect the underlying ground or water
within the ground and could harm people, building materials, water
courses or nature. For information on how land
contamination could affect you as a resident see frequently asked
Enquiries about land contamination
If you would like to find out whether a particular property had
a former land use that may potentially have caused some soil
contamination you can request a report from the Environmental
Quality Team. We also maintain four public
registers that hold other information that may be relevant to
your enquiry. Find out more about the contaminated land enquiry system.
Dealing with contaminated land
Sites under planning application
If a site is to be developed as part of a planning application
it is dealt with under the Town and Country Planning Act, and it is
the developer's responsibility to make sure the land is suitable
for its proposed use. The owners and/or developers of the site
must establish the extent and nature of any potentially harmful
materials on the site. This should normally be done before the
formal planning permission is granted for the development. However,
if this is not possible, permission can be granted, but certain
conditions will be attached to the permission, which must be
If potential risks are identified, the land will need to be
dealt with before development begins, to minimise all risks posed.
This process is known as remediation. Guidelines have been produced
to help developers meet the planning requirements for a potentially
contaminated site. It was prepared by the Royal Borough in
collaboration with twelve other London boroughs and the Environment
Agency, and sets out the information that a Local Planning
Authority will require:
Sites in current use
Local authorities are responsible for identifying sites that
are not subject to a planning application but may be
potentially contaminated and unsuitable for their current use.
If the local authority has identified that a site had a
former land use that could have potentially caused contamination
they will investigate further to decide if the sites presents
a risk to human health or the environment. This is known as an
investigation through Part IIA of the
Environmental Protection Act 1990.
Once contaminated land has been correctly identified
(see detecting contamination), the risk
needs to be dealt with, and a programme of appropriate remediation
must be undertaken. This means that any work undertaken should
result in the land being ‘suitable for use’ so it no longer poses a
significant risk - bearing in mind its current or proposed use.
It also means that the effects of any significant harm, or water
pollution that has occurred, have been remedied. In many situations
the level of contamination is reduced to the point at which no
significant risk remains. This does not necessarily mean that all
traces of contamination are removed, and in some situations the
contamination will be left where it is but permanently contained,
so that it is prevented from doing any further harm.
The Council has produced a Remediation Strategy, making it
easier for residents and businesses to understand what the process
of remediation might entail. It sets out the steps that will need
to be taken to reduce and ultimately minimise the risks posed, once
a site has been designated as ‘contaminated’.
On-site remediation is not likely to affect residents. If a site
investigation has been undertaken and remediation is required, then
you may find out further details by contacting the Planningline on
020 7361 3012 and asking to view the relevant report. Some of these
may already be available on the planning pages.