Contaminated Land Investigation Within The Part IIa Framework

Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act (1990) introduced a statutory legal definition for contaminated land, as follows:-
“…any land which appears to the local authority in whose area it is situated to be in such a condition, by reason of substances in, on or under the land , that :-

  • significant harm is being caused or there is a significant possibility of such harm being caused, or
  • pollution of controlled waters is being, or is likely to be caused”

The government’s objectives with respect to contaminated land are to:-

  • Identify and remove unacceptable risks to human health and the environment.
  • Seek to ensure that contaminated land is made suitable for its current use.
  • Ensure that the burdens faced by individuals, companies and society as a whole are proportionate, manageable and compatible with the principles of sustainable development.

These three objectives underlie the fitness for purpose approach to remediation of contaminated land within the UK. The fitness for purpose approach consists of three elements:-

  • Ensuring that land is suitable for its current use.
  • Ensuring that land is made suitable for any new use as granted by planning permission.
  • Limiting the requirements for remediation to the work necessary to prevent unacceptable risks to human health and/or the environment in relation to the current use or future use of the land for which planning permission is being sought by recognising that the risks from contaminated land can be satisfactorily assessed only in the context of specific uses of the land (whether current or proposed).

Liability for remediation of contaminated land would be assigned to persons, organisations or businesses if they caused, or knowingly permitted contamination, or if they own or occupy contaminated land in a case where no polluter can be found.

Most remediation of land contamination in the UK takes place when a site is redeveloped for a new use. Conditions requiring remediation are normally attached to the planning consent. Where no redevelopment is proposed, a remediation notice can be served under the contaminated land regime introduced under Part IIA. Government policy is to encourage voluntary remediation of contamination through site redevelopment wherever possible rather than regulation under the contaminated land regime.

Under Part IIA, for a risk to exist there needs to be one or more contaminant-pathway-receptor linkages by which a relevant receptor might be affected by the contaminants in question. Therefore for a risk to exist there must be contaminants present in, on or under the land in a form and quantity that poses a hazard, and one or more pathways by which they might significantly harm people, the environment, or property, or significantly pollute controlled waters.

The Part IIA regime was introduced to help identify and deal with land that poses unacceptable levels of risk. It is not intended to apply to land with levels of contaminants in soil that are commonplace and widespread and for which, in the very large majority of cases, there is no reason to consider that there is an unacceptable risk.

In deciding whether or not land is contaminated land on the grounds of significant possibility of significant harm to human health (SPOSH), the guidance introduces four categories. Categories 1 and 2 encompass land which is capable of being determined as contaminated land on the grounds of SPOSH to human health and Categories 3 and 4 would encompass land which is not capable of being determined on such grounds.

At TGEN our site investigations and risk assessments can be tailored to assess the likelihood of a site being designated as contaminated land in the context of the Part IIa regime. Should you require any further advice or wish to discuss a particular site or project then contact us at