Pollution Control - Contaminated Land

    Environmental Health

    Section containing information regarding contaminated land issues.

    Online request for information.

    Is the land I am interested in contaminated?

    Is there a charge for making a contaminated land enquiry?

    How can I test the land for contamination?

    Where can I find more information?

    Some land in this country has been contaminated in the past by industries such as:

    • gasworks
    • tanneries
    • chemical works
    • landfills

    These are often called brownfield sites.

    The Problem

    Brownfield 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

    However, 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 Stafford Borough Council does about contaminated land

    The council is responsible for enforcing the 'contaminated land' legislation. The council:

    • publishes a Contaminated Land Strategy, which says how it will find contaminated sites in its area
    • carries out inspections of land that may be contaminated
    • finds out who is responsible for putting right the contamination and discusses the problem with them
    • formally declares land contaminated
    • agrees the necessary action and makes sure it is done
    • keeps 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 the council, once it has been declared as 'contaminated land'.

    Stafford Borough Council - Contaminated Land Inspection Strategy (pdf 627kb)

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Is the land I am interested in contaminated?

    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 use the contact details provided at the top of this page.TOP

    Is there a 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 of (see Fees and Charges page). This search will not categorically determine whether or not the land in question will appear on the register. TOP

    How can I test the land for contamination?

    If the land is Public Open Space or has a public footpath and access, Stafford Borough Council 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 using the details at the top of this page for a list of ground investigation contractors. Please note, the Council cannot recommend a particular contractor. TOP

    Where can I find 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.


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