In the UK, the contaminated land regime is enforced by environmental regulators such the Environment Agency and local Contaminated Land Officers who apply the risk-based "source-pathway-target pollution linkage" concept when assessing the risk to sensitive receptors posed by a contaminated site. As an example, a source may be soil or groundwater contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons, the pathway being vapours entering a building or direct contact, and the target being residential occupiers living in a new house above the area of contamination.
The purpose of a Contaminated Land Assessment is to evaluate the potential for a pollution linkage to be present. If a pollution linkage is established, then an assessment should consider the level of risk and whether any further works or actions are required to clarify, manage or mitigate the risk, often by some form of land remediation. It should always be noted that for a potential liability to arise, each stage of the pollution linkage must be present, so if there is no pollution linkage or if the linkage can be broken, then there is no risk.
The contaminated land regime generally follows a phased risk-based approach and is applied to new development sites going through planning, to sites being investigated due to a pollution incident. Principally, there are four phases or stages to a Contaminated Land Assessment:
Phase 2 Site Investigation (preliminary, detailed and supplementary).
Phase 3 Remediation & Validation.
Phase 4 Post-remediation monitoring (i.e. groundwater condition).
The majority of clients encounter the need for a Contaminated Land Assessment as part of a planning application or to discharge conditions following planning permission being granted for a new development. These are often conditions imposed by a local planning authority, the Environment Agency and National House Building Council (NHBC). See the ‘I Need’ tab above. Many clients and their agents often require a desk study or site investigation as part of a commercial property transaction and sale, to investigate any potential environmental liabilities. A site investigation may also be required by consulting engineers and design and build contractors for design purposes and a land quality check, or a regulatory authority may require a Contaminated Land Assessment to investigate a potential or on-going pollution issue (such as a site being investigated under Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990).
In order to meet your needs and ensure compliance, all stages of our Contaminated Land Assessments from Phase 1 desk studies through to remediation verification are in keeping with the requirements of local planning procedures, best practice and planning guidance such as that set out in the new the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which advises regulatory consultees to ensure that adequate site investigation information is provided at the initial planning stage and the Environment Agency’s Model Procedures for the Management of Land Contamination (CLR11) and GPLC EA documents which sets out the recommended phased risk-based approach when dealing with land affected by contamination.
Lustre Consulting has gained extensive experience carrying out each stage of a phased Contaminated Land Assessment on a variety of sites ranging from small developments with less than five units, through to large scale strategic housing developments covering many hectares, and commercial and industrial developments. We have a track record of successfully supporting planning applications, removing objections and discharging conditions, and our reports regularly receive positive feedback from many planning authorities and environmental regulators.
Some important points to consider when commissioning a Contaminated Land Assessment:
Do you have any planning conditions attached to your planning permission which require a Contaminated Land Assessment?
A Phase 1 desk study is arguably the most important part of any phased contaminated land assessment and the least expensive! A desk study may prove the absence of pollutant linkages at a site, or reduce the risk to an acceptably low level not to warrant further, more costly Phase 2 site investigation.
Be wary of very cheap desk studies. The danger of a cheap desk study is the increased potential for oversights, no site walkover (which is more often than not essential), no conceptual model or risk assessment and non-compliant reports.
The requirement for at least a Phase 1 Desk Study to support a planning application is becoming increasingly more common by local planning authorities.