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 - that sites are fit for purpose and that 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, who will determine whether any actions, preconditions, information or regulatory action is required prior to the development of a site.

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

Should the above survey suggest the existence of contaminated material on site, then we require submission of results of a full intrusive site investigation to establish the nature and extent of hazardous material on site.

Once a satisfactory site investigation and characterisation has been performed - in terms of sources, pathways and receptors - the developer of a site 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 fall in to the category of contaminated land defined under Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act.

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 within our archives since 1990 - this contains much information on remedial work carried out on newly developed sites.

A land-use history report is available for £200 plus VAT.

Developers' guide to contaminated land

We have produced a developers' guide to contaminated land [PDF, 4.5 MB], which has been written to provide guidance to anyone who is proposing to develop, or is involved in the development of land that may be affected by contamination.

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.

The district councils became the primary regulator for the identification and remediation of contaminated land in April 2000, with the introduction of 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