FAQs about contaminated land
Q: What causes contamination in the ground and why should we clean it up?
A: Contamination (pollution) of land can arise from past industrial processes, waste disposal, illegal dumping, accidental spillage of substances and in some instances may be natural rather than man-made. In the past there were far fewer operating restrictions for industries than we have today. Many industrial activities were carried out with little regard for their impact on the environment. The type of contaminant can vary widely from site to site. Some of the more common problems include oils and fuels, domestic and industrial waste, heavy metals and solvents.
Q: What work are we doing under the new legislation, Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990?
A: The new legislation requires the Council to actively identify contaminated sites that are not suitable for their current use. The London Borough of Bexley carries out these statutory duties. If necessary, the London Borough of Bexley has enforcement powers to get the sites cleaned up. This runs alongside our Planning and Building Control consultation duties, which we continue to undertake.
Q: What is the legal definition of 'Contaminated Land'?
A: The Environmental Protection Act 1990 introduced a legal definition of 'Contaminated Land' for the first time.
Q: Will all polluted sites be legally determined by the Council to be 'Contaminated Land'?
A: Not necessarily.
Q: Is brownfield land 'Contaminated Land'?
A: Not necessarily. Brownfield is a term often used to describe previously developed land. Most land that has been previously developed for industrial purposes will have some contamination on it, but not all will meet the definition of contaminated land under Part IIA (see above answer).
Q: What are the Environment Agency's responsibilities under Part IIA?
A: For some sites known as 'special sites', which includes sites affecting rivers, aquifers and water supplies, have radioactive substances on site or are former Ministry of Defence land, the London Borough of Bexley will carry out the initial work to identify the site as 'Contaminated Land' and consult with the Environment Agency about designating the site as a 'special site'. The remediation (clean up) of 'special sites' will be enforced by the Environment Agency as set out in the Part IIA Guidance Document.
Q: How could 'Contaminated Land' investigations affect me?
A: You may be affected by investigations if you own land, occupy land, are a tenant of land or operate a process on land that the Council has reasons to believe may be contaminated.
Q: Who pays for the clean up of 'Contaminated Land'?
A: The Council will pay the cost of investigation into the contaminated status of the land under Part IIA. In the case where remedial works (clean up) are needed to prevent harm due to unacceptable risks, other parties may have to meet the costs.
Q: I think my site may be contaminated, what can I do?
A: You should contact this Authority's Environmental Protection Team, who will consider if the land is causing an immediate risk to receptors and if the problem can be dealt with under another regime other than Part IIA. In the case of a brownfield site (previously developed land), if you are the landowner you may wish to get specialist advice on the investigation and clean up of the land from private consultants.
Q: I have a Contaminated Land condition on my planning approval, what should I do?
A: If you have made a planning application relating to a development that is on or close to a former landfill site or other industrial area, you may have a Contaminated Land condition attached to your planning permission. A condition is attached in circumstances where we feel that special precautions and contamination remediation works are likely to be required to ensure the development can be implemented with adequate regard for environmental and public safety.
Q: What do I need from a developer if I am buying a new house on a development, which has had Contaminated Land conditions attached as part of its planning approval?
A: A 'remediation certificate' produced by the consultant or expert on behalf of the developer stating how the site has been remediated to a 'suitable for use' standard. Where this is not available, copies of the remediation reports from the developer. You should also contact the Planning and/or Environmental Protection Team for confirmation that the contaminated land conditions have been fully complied with and therefore discharged, and that there are no outstanding issues. The NHBC or other Building Control Inspector may also be able to provide information about the development.
Q: Who is responsible if things go wrong due to contamination?
A: Under the Planning regime, it is the responsibility of the developer to ensure that a development is safe and 'suitable for use' for the purpose for which it is intended. The Council does not accept liability.
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