Some land in this country has been contaminated in the past by industries such as:
- chemical works
These are often called brown field sites which can be a problem because:
- there may be harmful substances in, on or under the land
- water pollution might be caused by substances at the site
However, brown field sites do not generally cause a problem unless they are redeveloped for a different use.
Land is only declared 'contaminated' if:
- it contains a source of pollution - the source and
- someone (or something) could be affected by the pollutant - the receptor and
- the pollution can get to the 'receptor' - the pathway
These three elements together are known as the pollutant linkage.
If you own or occupy contaminated land now, or you did in the past, you may be responsible for cleaning up the pollution. You may still be responsible for cleaning up the pollution after you have sold the land.
Some contamination can be a hazard to current occupants or neighbours and the law says the problem must be put right immediately.
The law follows the 'polluter pays' principle - the person or organisation that caused or permitted the contamination must pay to have it put right. If that person or organisation is not known, then the current owner of the land may become responsible.
Owners and occupiers of domestic properties are not usually liable for these costs.
Re-use of brown field sites
The approval of an application for redevelopment of these sites will only be granted on condition that the contamination is cleaned up to a standard that makes it suitable for the new use of the land.
You should obtain specialist advice from an environmental consultant or a specialist lawyer before you buy or sell contaminated land. When you buy land in Craven, the Land Charges department will tell you if a site has been declared 'contaminated land'.
A developers guide for building on potentially contaminated land is available to download Developers Guide to Contaminated Land
What Craven District Council does about contaminated land
Craven District Council is responsible for enforcing the 'contaminated land' legislation. The council:
- publishes a Contaminated Land Strategy, which says how it will find contaminated sites in its area and is available to download
- carries out inspections of land that may be contaminated
- finds out who is responsible for putting right the contamination and discusses the problem with them
- formally declares land contaminated
- agrees the necessary action and makes sure it is done
- keeps a Public Register of contaminated land sites, the action that was required to put the problem right and any legal action that has been taken
During the inspection of land within its area the Local authority must do a formal risk assessment. We will adopt a two stage approach to identify contaminated land:
Stage 1 - Risk screening to prioritise sites for further inspection
Stage 2 - Detailed site inspection risk assessment
The Environmental Protection section is consulted, whenever a planning application is made for developments on or near previously used land (brown field sites) which may be affected by contamination.
We may require conditions to be attached to a planning permission requiring a site investigation and remediation works to be carried out.
In some cases the Environment Agency may take over the regulation of a site from the council, once it has been declared as 'contaminated land'.