Contaminated Land

England & Wales | Scotland | Northern Ireland

Please note: The legislation described in this section is correct at January 2011

Environmental Protection Act 1990 (UK excluding Northern Ireland) Part IIA
Part IIA was introduced into the Environmental Protection Act 1990 by the Environment Act 1995 to guide the remediation of contaminated land. This legislation is relevant across all UK nations with the exception of Northern Ireland. 

Part IIA, its accompanying regulations and Statutory Guidance, contained in DETR Circular 01/2006 Contaminated Land, came into force in April 2000, including the first statutory definition of Contaminated Land. Part IIA addresses ‘unacceptable risk’ assessed through examination of the contaminant, the receptor and a pathway. For the risk to be unacceptable there should be a pollutant linkage and the harm to a receptor should be ‘significant’. Therefore, the Part IIA statutory definition of Contaminated Land covers a sub-section of land affected by contamination.

In most cases, Local Authorities are the enforcing authorities for the contaminated land regime under Part IIA. They have a duty to identify contaminated land within their area and, except for certain categories, decide what remediation is required and ensure that it takes place. 

The Government’s objectives for contaminated land are set out in DETR Circular 01/2006 Contaminated Land. These are:

  • to identify and remove unacceptable risks to human health and the environment
  • to seek to bring damaged land back into beneficial use
  • to seek to ensure that the cost burdens faced by individuals, companies and society as a whole are proportionate, manageable and economically sustainable.

Guidance on contaminated land is due to be reviewed through Defra’s consultation on Part IIa of the Environmental Protection Act 1990
 
Part 3 Waste and Contaminated Land (Northern Ireland) Order 1009
Part 3 of the Waste and Contaminated Land (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 contains the main legal provisions for the introduction of a contaminated land regime in Northern Ireland. The Order was enacted in 1997 but the regime is not yet in operation. The Part 3 regime aims to deal with the legacy of historically contaminated land through the “polluter pays” principle. This will ensure that, where possible, those who pollute the land will pay for its remediation so that it is “suitable for use”.

Contaminated Land Regulations

Contaminated land regulations are in place for all four of the UK nations. Regulations make provisions for land remediation and procedures for recording remediation works.

England and Wales Contaminated Land Regulations

The Contaminated Land (England) Regulations 2006
Sets out provisions relating to the identification and remediation of contaminated land. The regulations identify sites requiring regulation as ‘special sites’ and add land contaminated by radioactive substances to this classification.

Environmental Damage (Prevention and Remediation) (Wales) Regulations 2009
Brings into force for Wales rules to force polluters to prevent and repair damage to water systems, land quality, species and their habitats and protected sites. The polluter does not have to be prosecuted first, so remedying the damage should be faster.

The Contaminated Land (Wales) Regulations 2006
Sets out further provisions for Wales for the identification and remediation of contaminated land. Adds land contaminated by radioactive substances as a ‘special site’.

Scotland Contaminated Land Regulations

The Contaminated Land (Scotland) Regulations 2000
Introduces a scheme for remedying contaminated land, identifies ‘special sites’ enforced by SEPA, remediation notices and their contents, and sets out the information to be held on a contaminated land register maintained by local councils.

The Contaminated Land (Scotland) Regulations 2005
Aligns the contaminated land regime with the water environment protection regime where contaminated land is a source of pollution.

Northern Ireland Contamination Regulations

Waste and Contaminated Land (Northern Ireland) Order 1997
Sets out the waste management regime covering waste carrier registration and identifying and remedying contaminated land.

Contaminated Land Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006
The aim of this legislation is to provide appropriate procedures and guidance to underpin the bringing into operation of Part 3 of the Waste and Contaminated Land (Northern Ireland) Order 1997. Part 3 provides a framework for a regulatory regime to deal with historically contaminated land in Northern Ireland. Consultation was carried out between July and August of 2006 but the order has not yet been adopted in Northern Ireland.