What you should know about owning contaminated land

Contaminated land is the term commonly used to describe land that is polluted by substances such as asbestos, oils, heavy metals, tars, chemical substances, radioactive materials or gases. This can have an impact on the environment but also on businesses who have to rectify issues before development can commence, making use of land remediation services and companies.

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If you are the owner of land classed as ‘contaminated’ or are considering whether investing in this sort of land would be a viable option, here are some things that you need to know.

The law

In legal terms, land is classed as contaminated if it could cause significant harm to protected species or people, or cause significant pollution in groundwater or surface waters.

According to the Environment Agency at https://www.gov.uk/contaminated-land, this legal definition specifically refers to past contamination on the site of facilities such as former steelworks, mines, factories, refineries, or landfill sites.

Who is responsible for the clean-up?

If land is contaminated, it may be the local authority or a relevant agency such as the Environment Agency which decides who must clean it up. This could be the party who originally caused the contamination, or a current owner or user.

The agency or council will then issue a remediation notice, giving instructions as to how and when the land must be cleaned up.

Development plans

In many cases, developers must clean up contaminated sites before they can proceed and must also employ the services of specialist companies such as Ash Remediation.

If this applies to you, it is advisable to contact the relevant local authority to discuss potential planning conditions. Local council contact details can be found via the government website at https://www.gov.uk/find-your-local-council.

The cost of remediation

You may be put off from buying or continuing to own contaminated land because of worries about the cost of a possible clean-up.

If you are planning to buy land classed as contaminated, however, there could be financial help available to help finance the clean-up operation. This help could include capital allowance or you might receive benefit from enhanced tax relief.

Find out more

Before making any decisions about buying or cleaning up contaminated land, it would be wise to read the government’s guide focussing on the issue. This can be found at https://www.gov.uk/contaminated-land/print.

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