The following Environment guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:
'Land contamination' is a general term used to describe any land that may be contaminated in some way.
'Contaminated land', is a specific legal term defined in the Environmental Protection Act 1990, Pt IIA (EPA 1990).
See Practice Note: Contaminated land—definition of contaminated land.
If a local authority identifies contaminated land it must serve a remediation notice on anyone who caused or knowingly permitted the contaminant(s) to be in on, or under the land. If no such persons can be found, liability may fall on the innocent owner or occupier.
The contaminated land regime is strict and retrospective. It was introduced to:
deal with the legacy of contaminated sites in the UK that would not be remediated without regulatory intervention
promote market solutions by encouraging companies to undertake voluntary remediation
Liability should only be imposed under Part IIA where there is no better solution for dealing with the contamination, ie it is an option of last resort.
See Practice Note: Contaminated land—objectives of the contaminated land regime.
Several other regimes also deal with land contamination, including:
environmental damage, eg where contamination causes or threatens to cause environmental damage
planning, eg when land is developed
environmental permitting, eg where a permit is revoked or surrendered
waste on land, eg where waste is unlawfully deposited on land
anti-pollution works notices, eg where controlled waters are
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