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Contaminated land

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What is contaminated land?

'Contaminated land' is legally defined under Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act, 1990 as:

  • any land which appears to the local authority in whose area it is situated to be in such a condition, by reason of substances in, on or under the land, that:
    • (a) significant harm is being caused or there is a significant possibility of such harm being caused;
    • (b) pollution of controlled waters is being, or is likely to be, caused.

where 'harm' is defined as damage to:

  • health of living organisms or other interference with the ecological systems of which they form part and, in the case of man, includes harm to his property.

This legislation focuses on dealing with land which may be affecting people, plants, animals, buildings or water which are in or in the site. There must be a link between the source of the contamination and the receptor which may be affected.

Under this legislation, it is possible to have a piece of land which contains pollutants but cannot be defined as contaminated land. For example, imagine two fields; both with high levels of a pollutant, such as arsenic. One field is used by the local population for recreational activities, such as dog walking or picnicking etc. The other field is fenced off, preventing people from using it. The first field could be legally defined as 'contaminated land' as the people using the field may come into contact with the pollutants in the soil. The second field, however, cannot be defined as 'contaminated land' under Part IIA because the pollutants in the soil cannot affect anybody as they are not allowed to access the site.

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Planning, Building Control and contaminated land

All applications submitted to the Planning Department and to Building Control are cross-referenced with the Public Health & Regulation Teams' potentially contaminated land data. This procedure follows a number of steps:

  1. a list of applications is received by the Public Health & Regulation Team from Planning and/or Building Control
  2. the applications are scrutinised to determine whether it involves breaking the ground surface - for example, replacement windows or a loft conversion do not, where as building an extension does
  3. those applications which involve ground works are checked against the potentially contaminated land data
  4. properties which are not situated on, or within a 10 metre radius of, potentially contaminated land, have the precautionary condition applied. The full wording of this condition is available from the Planning Department, but to summarise: if any visibly contaminated or odorous material, or asbestos-containing material, is identified during the development, works should cease and the Public Health & Regulation Team and Planning departments should be immediately informed. A method statement detailing how the contamination will be dealt with must be submitted to and approved by these departments. Work should not commence until written permission to do so has been obtained from these departments.
  5. properties which are located on, or within a 10 metre radius of, potentially contaminated land have the full condition applied. The full wording of this condition is available from the Planning Department, but to paraphrase: the full condition states that a preliminary risk assessment must be completed by an independent and suitably qualified third party and submitted to the Public Health & Regulation Team (or Planning) Department for assessment. If the risks identified are low, the build may commence and the precautionary condition may be applied (see section 4, above). If the risks identified are likely to have an impact upon those using or working on the site, an intrusive investigation may be required. This involves sampling the soil at various locations and depths across the site, usually a minimum of three locations, each providing three samples from different depths. There is no definitive number of locations or depths as this is influenced by the size of the site, soil composition and numerous other factors. If the risks presented are low, the precautionary condition is applied and works may commence. If the risks are high, remediation is required and a thorough and detailed plan of the chosen strategy must be submitted to and approved by the Environmental Protection (or Planning) Department, prior to works commencing. Once remediation has been carried out to a satisfactory level, it shall be approved by the Public Health & Regulation Team and the Planning Department shall remove the associated condition.

See also: Planning and Building Control

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Moving house

Buying or selling a house is commonly regarded as a stressful process and most people prefer to collect as much information about their potential new home as possible before committing to moving. Potentially contaminated land may affect Adur and Worthing residents during the conveyancing process and may have an impact on developers wishing to invest in Adur and Worthing. It is strongly recommended that you contact the Councils' Public Health & Regulation Team if you have any queries or concerns.

It is advisable to commission a search on the property or site in question to establish whether it is situated on, or near to, potentially contaminated land as this may have an effect upon the house price, insurance quotes and may have possible health impacts. The Councils can provide information on a specific property or site and there are a number of independent companies which perform similar searches, for details refer to the Environmental Information Enquiries section.

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Environmental Information Enquiries

Environmental searches are an important part of buying or selling a property. Properties which are situated on or adjacent to potentially contaminated land may be more difficult to buy or sell.

Some mortgage lenders require additional assurances that the investment is sound before they will commit financially. This decision is entirely dependent upon the lender.

An impartial search can be conducted for a property by the Public Health & Regulation Team. This search provides the commissioner with information about the property in question and any potentially contaminated sites within a 100 metre radius. The search comprises historical and modern data and includes a map of the search area for clarity.

The legislation which covers contaminated land (Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act, 1990) was introduced in 2000; before this year, many homes were not checked to see whether they were situated on potentially contaminated land.

The Council only releases information about a site through the Environmental Enquiry process as the data held are sensitive and variable. Once requested in writing (or by e-mail), this search will be conducted by the Contaminated Land Officer and includes the following:

  • any historical files and microfiche relating to your site;
  • all previous searches conducted nearby;
  • our electronic data on potentially contaminative land uses;
  • historical maps for previous land use information;
  • current or outstanding planning applications relating to the site.

A search costs £68.00 (prices are subject to an annual increase in April, prices correct as at 08-12-2015) and will be completed within 20 days of the initial request being received. A hard copy is issued through Royal Mail and an electronic copy can be made available if requested. It is recommended that a separate enquiry is made to the Environment Agency.

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Inspection Strategy and Public Register

Part II A of the Environmental Protection Act, 1990 requires Adur and Worthing to publish their contaminated land strategies and keep public registers of contaminated land identified within the Adur District and Worthing Borough.

Adur and Worthing are required to identify and inspect all potentially contaminated areas within our boundary. Contaminated land strategies have been produced for Adur and Worthing and these are currently being amalgamated into one coherent document. This new document will be soon be available to download. For copies of the current strategies, please contact the Public Health & Regulation Team. Please note that there is a small charge associated with producing copies.

  • Adur's public register is available to view at Portland House, 44 Richmond Road, Worthing, BN11 1HS. Currently the register does not contain any entries for Adur.
  • Worthing's public register of contaminated land can be viewed free of charge at the main council office at Portland House, 44 Richmond Road, Worthing, BN11 1HS. Currently the register does not contain any entries for Worthing.

For copies of either register, please contact the Public Health & Regulation Team. Please be aware that there is a small charge associated with producing copies.

See:

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Where is the contaminated land?

There are a number of potentially contaminated sites within the Adur District and Worthing Borough. These areas may be polluted through a historic activity, such as an old landfill site, or through modern practices, for example, petrol filling stations. Due to the sensitive and variable nature of this data, they are not made public. Requests for information about a specific site or property can be provided; please refer to the Environmental Information Enquiries section.

Any sites or properties which have been declared as 'contaminated land' under the definition cited in Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 are listed on the Council' public register, please refer to the Inspection Strategy and Public Register section.

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Developing contaminated land

National Planning Policy provides that contaminated land and potentially contaminated land is a material consideration in determining planning applications and despite the introduction of the Part IIA legislation in April 2000, the planning process remains the main driver for dealing with land contamination.

The Local Authority is in the process of updating its planning advice note for developments on land potentially affected by contamination. This note will give guidance to applicants on the standards required to satisfy the planning process. This is to ensure the land is adequately investigated and any necessary remediation will make the land suitable for its proposed use.

The Planning Advice Note is currently being updated and will be available for download soon.

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Government legislation

Contaminated land is dealt with under Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act, 1990. Part IIA came into force in the year 2000; properties which were bought or sold before the year 2000 may not have been identified as being situated on potentially contaminated land. Even now, some home owners do not realise their property is situated on potentially contaminated land until they decide to sell their house.

If you have any queries or concerns, please contact the Public Health & Regulation Team.

The full Act and associated guidance is available to view on the following websites:

More information can be found on the following websites:

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Queries and reporting an issue

For any queries you may have which have not been answered in this section, or for reporting land you suspect to be contaminated, please follow the link below and a member of staff will contact you shortly:

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