Land contamination advice

Contamination, in most cases, is likely to arise from a previous use of the site or an adjacent site, that had an industrial activity on it at one time or another. If present, it can present a risk to human health via direct contact, inhalation or ingestion, or damage the wider environment (for example surface water, ground water or ecosystems). Dealing with contamination can be a complex matter which needs specialist scientific expertise. A number of consultancies specialise in advising on this type of work and will be needed to carry out site investigation work and remediation (including that carried out on-site or if necessary the removal of contaminated material to licenced disposal sites) before any development work begins. 

Statutory Guidance

Best practice guidance:

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Steps for builders

How to minimise risk of exposure to land contamination

Before starting work, make sure you know what contaminants (if any) are present on site. If there is a risk of soils or groundwater on site containing elevated levels of contaminants then a desk top study identifying the former land uses and a site investigation report should already have been carried out. A remediation strategy should then have been prepared which will set out any risks present and the steps that must be taken to mitigate against them. If you discover anything unexpected, call the Council for advice straight away. Also, if you want to make changes to the remediation strategy, these must be approved by the Council in advance.

You should also beware of your responsibilities to prevent spillage and leakage of materials and liquids brought onto the site for use in construction and stored or transferred between holding tanks. This includes fluids, powders and loose grained materials.

The table below summarises the steps that developers and builders should be taking to ensure that any contaminated soils do not pose a risk to site workers, water courses or future occupiers of the land.

Land contamination advice for builders
Before works startOn site, during works
Review the remediation strategy to understand any risks that might be present.If you discover anything unexpected or if there is more than initially thought, stop working and contact Environmental Health immediately on 020 7361 3002.
Ensure environmental consultants have been engaged by the developer to oversee the remediation works.Environmental consultants should be engaged to identify the extent of the contamination and suggest how to deal with it. This must be approved by Environmental Health prior to works continuing.
Environmental consultants will gather information to present in a verification report, to be approved by Environmental Health before construction commences. This will document the remediation works that occurred, and whether the site is suitable for use.Do not re-use materials on site, like soil, without first testing for contamination.
 Ensure materials and fuels are stored in appropriate conditions and away from drains and un-surfaced areas. Procedures and training should be in place for the safe delivery and handling of materials.
 Ensure there are hand washing facilities on site, and a place to eat and drink away from any suspected contaminated material. The Health and Safety Executive has further information about this.
 Contact the LFEPA on 020 8555 1200 (ext. 30859) for a licence to store 15 litres or more of petroleum spirit.

Advice for residents

If remediation is taking place on site, this is not likely to affect you. 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.

Last updated: 12 March 2020