Land pollution and our Contaminated Land Strategy

We have various duties regarding polluted sites, under planning law and the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Under both legal frameworks the guiding principles are the same. Sites must be fit for purpose, and where clean up is needed the 'polluter pays' principle is adopted.

Contaminated land and the planning process

Contaminated land is a material consideration under the land use planning process.

Advice on how this is applied can be found in the government's guidance document on pollution impacts.

Any new development requiring planning permission, and involving previously used land, is referred to our principal scientific officer. We will determine whether any actions, preconditions, information or regulatory action is required prior to the development of a site.

Any contamination issues associated with a development on a former industrial site are usually resolved with conditions on the planning application. 

Contaminated land conditions can be split in three broad categories:

  1. Pre-commencement: The conditions need to be satisfied before development starts on site
  2. Pre-occupation: These conditions need to be discharged before the site is occupied
  3. Prior to importation, or prior to placement: These conditions need to be satisfied before material is imported or placed around the development

If there is any suspicion of a previously contaminative use, we require a historical desktop study and site survey by a qualified environmental professional.

If the survey suggests the existence of contaminated material on site, we will seek to establish the nature and extent of the material. We will do this by running a full intrusive site investigation.

When a satisfactory site investigation has been performed – in terms of sources, pathways and receptors – the developer must produce one of the following:

  • a quantitative risk assessment showing that no significant pollutant linkages exist
  • a remediation scheme designed to break any significant pollutant linkages.

These must take in to account the proposed end-use of the site.

Provided this policy is adhered to, no recently developed sites will be considered contaminated, as defined under Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act.

You can contact the EQG team at eqg@cambridge.gov.uk if you have further questions regarding contaminated land or contaminated land conditions. 

Please see the links below for FAQ relating to contaminated land and our conditions:

These links are currently under development with further FAQ available soon

 Condition 7 - Material Management Plan FAQ [PDF, 194kB]

Land-use history report

A land-use history report may be useful if you are planning to develop a site that has a known previous use.

Our scientific team can provide you with a summary report containing:

  • historic land-use information from the 1860s onwards
  • an aerial photograph of the site.

The sources of this information are as follows:

  • a review of Kelly's and other local trade directories (1860-1975) on a five-year interval
  • scrutiny of the 1:1250, 1:2500 and 1:10000 Ordnance Survey maps available for the Cambridge area from 1880 onwards
  • review of aerial photography for 1940, 1944 and 2002
  • a review of information held in our archives since 1990 – including information on remedial work carried out on newly developed sites

A land-use history report is available for £205 plus VAT.

Developers' guide to contaminated land

Our developers' guide to contaminated land [PDF, 4.5 MB] is for anyone involved in the development of land that might be contaminated.

Contaminated Land Strategy

Our Contaminated Land Strategy [PDF. 1.8 MB] describes how we will undertake our statutory duty to:

  • inspect land in our area for contamination
  • establish if a site is fit for purpose
  • enforce clean-up (remediation) where necessary.

District councils became the primary regulator for the identification and remediation of contaminated land in 2000. The change was introduced by Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (amended by Section 57 of the Environment Act 1995).

Contact us

Environmental Quality and Growth (EQG) team

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