Contaminated land—who may be liable?

The following Environment practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Contaminated land—who may be liable?
  • Who may be liable?
  • Meaning of ‘person’
  • Unincorporated bodies
  • The Crown
  • Persons in existence
  • Parent companies
  • Directors and officers
  • Statutory successors
  • Insolvency practitioners
  • More...

Contaminated land—who may be liable?

Who may be liable?

Anyone who is an 'appropriate person' may be liable for remediation of contaminated land under Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA 1990).

An 'appropriate person' is any:

  1. person who causes or knowingly permits contaminating substances to be in, on or under the land in question (Class A), or

  2. owner or occupier of contaminated land, but only where a Class A person cannot be found (Class B)

See Practice Note: Contaminated land—identifying Class A and B appropriate persons.

Where contaminated land is identified, the enforcing authority must serve a remediation notice on each 'appropriate person' specifying what they must do by way of remediation.

Where there are two or more appropriate persons, liability is apportioned between the parties in accordance with the statutory guidance—see Practice Note: Contaminated land—process for determining liability.

Where there is no appropriate person, the enforcing authority will need to determine who should pay for remediation. In most cases, the costs of an orphan linkage will be borne by the public purse—see Practice Note: Contaminated land—orphan linkages.

According to the Environment Agency's (EA) report on Dealing with contaminated land in England, at the majority of remediated sites, the responsibility for carrying out remediation fell to either the LA or the EA. Although the Class A polluters were often pursued, they could either not be found or