Pollution Control - Contaminated Land

In the past, some land in this country has been contaminated by industries such as:

  • gasworks
  • tanneries
  • chemical works
  • landfills

These are often called brownfield sites.

The problem with brownfield sites

These sites can be a problem for two reasons:

  • there may be harmful substances in, on or under the land
  • water pollution might be caused by substances at the site

Brownfield sites do not generally cause a problem unless they are redeveloped for a different use.

Pollutant linkage

Land is only declared contaminated if:

  • it contains a source of pollution - the source and
  • someone (or something) could be affected by the pollutant - the receptor and
  • the pollution can get to the 'receptor' - the pathway

These three elements together are known as the pollutant linkage.

Action required

If you own or occupy contaminated land now, or you did in the past, you may be responsible for cleaning up the pollution. You may still be responsible for cleaning up the pollution after you have sold the land.

Some contamination can be a hazard to current occupants or neighbours and the law says the problem must be put right immediately.

Who pays?

The law follows the 'polluter pays' principle - the person or organisation that caused or permitted the contamination must pay to have it put right. If that person or organisation is not known, then the current owner of the land may become responsible.

Owners and occupiers of domestic properties are not usually liable for these costs.

Re-use of brownfield sites

The approval of an application for redevelopment of these sites will only be granted on condition that the contamination is cleaned up to a standard that makes it suitable for the new use of the land.

You should obtain specialist advice from an environmental consultant or a specialist lawyer before you buy or sell contaminated land.

What we do about contaminated land

We are responsible for enforcing the 'contaminated land' legislation and we:

  • publish a Contaminated Land Inspection Strategy (pdf 627kb) which says how we will find contaminated sites in our area
  • carry out inspections of land that may be contaminated
  • find out who is responsible for putting right the contamination and discuss the problem with them
  • formally declare land contaminated
  • agree the necessary action and make sure its done
  • keep a Public Register of contaminated land sites, the action that was required to put the problem right and any legal action that has been taken.

In some cases the Environment Agency may take over the regulation of a site from us, once it has been declared as 'contaminated land'.


Radon risk maps were updated in December 2022, as a result a number of areas in the Borough are now affected.

It is advised that precautions are made for Radon protection measures in any new build homes.

Further information can be found at UKradon.org.

Identifying contaminated land

Land which has contaminants on it, which have a significant risk of causing harm, will appear on the Stafford Borough Contaminated Land Register.

You will need to speak to the Pollution Control Officer if you wish to examine this register. Please contact ehtechsupport@staffordbc.gov.uk or phone 01785 619 402.

Charge for making a contaminated land enquiry

If the land appears on the contaminated land register, there is no charge for the enquiry. If the land has not yet been assessed for contamination, there is a standard search fee - see our Fees and Charges).

This search will not categorically determine whether or not the land in question will appear on the register.

Testing the land for contamination

If the land is Public Open Space or has a public footpath and access, we will be able to investigate whether there is a significant risk of harm.

If the land is private with no public access, a specialist contractor should be employed to take and analyse appropriate samples. Contact the Pollution Control Officer by email ehtechsupport@staffordbc.gov.uk or phone 01785 619 402 for a list of ground investigation contractors.

We cannot recommend a particular contractor.

More Information

A guide is available to make developers, landowners and their advisors, aware of the information that Staffordshire Councils require in assessing an application for planning consent on land that may be affected by contamination.

Online request for information

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