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Contaminated land

What's new

February 2011 - Contamintated Land Remediation Report.   A Defra funded R&D project which looks at current understanding and uses of different contaminated land remediation techniques, identifies factors both current and in the future that may influence choices and establishes the relative economic, environmental and social costs and benefits (i.e. the sustainability) of each technique.

December 2010 - Defra launches consultation on changes to contaminated land

March 2010Defra R&D project on the potential health effects of contaminants in soil

December 2009 Local Authorities invited to bid for capital grants 2010/11

England has a substantial legacy of chemical contaminants in soil.  Sometimes the contaminants may be present naturally, and often they result from human industrial and domestic pollution.  In most cases, levels of contaminants are sufficiently low that there is no appreciable risk.  However, sometimes there can be significant risks to people or the environment.  It is only when such risks exist that land is considered to be “contaminated land”.

The Government’s long-term aim is to work towards a future where all the contaminated land in England has been identified and dealt with.  The scale of the task means this is likely to take decades to achieve. 

We have a wide range of policies to tackle land contamination, falling into two broad areas:

  • Measures to find and deal with existing contaminated land.
  • Measures to prevent more contaminated land being created. We do not cover these measures here, but they include policy and legislation on pollution, waste, water and chemicals.

In dealing with existing contaminated land, there are two main types of contaminated site for the purposes of Government policy:

  • Sites where there is a “voluntary” solution. Often land is remediated as it is being redeveloped under the planning system, or because land owners want to increase the utility and value of their land. Wherever possible, the Government encourages voluntary remediation (as opposed to compulsory remediation under contaminated land legislation). Policy in this area is overseen primarily by the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG).
  • Sites where there is unlikely to be a voluntary solution. This includes contaminated sites which have been developed without being cleaned-up; sites where remediation would be prohibitively expensive; and sites where the person who polluted the land, and/or the current owner, is unwilling to deal with the problem voluntarily. It is mainly on these types of site that contaminated land legislation comes into play.

Defra’s interest in contaminated land lies primarily in sites where there is no voluntary solution. In particular, Defra oversees contaminated land legislation (Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990), which was introduced to require action in the absence of a voluntary solution.

See also

27 April 2009 - The UK Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (UK PRTR) web pages are now available. These web pages will hold pollutant release data from a wide range of industrial installations across the UK, including: refineries; power stations; and less polluting activities that are regulated by local authorities. The UK PRTR will continue to see updates to data as more information becomes available. This may mean amendments to data as a verification exercise is still ongoing.

Page last modified: 16 February 2011