When you are considering buying a land for property development, you will inevitably come across the term ‘contaminated land’. It simply refers to a piece of land that has earlier been used by industries and is likely to contain toxic substances. With careful research and planning, you can easily get a contaminated land that is suitable for human habitation at attractive quotes. In this post, we will look at the seven things you should know about land contamination before buying the place.
Possibility of Contamination
The most likely spots of contamination are the industrial regions since the soil at these places are more likely to contain a mixture of chemicals and other metals. However, countryside locations are also likely to be contaminated if the region has a history of being the dumping ground for industrial and other chemical waste. Some regions may also contain large deposits of elements like methane, radon etc. which will make these areas naturally contaminated. There are various documents that can help you identify whether a land is contaminated or not. These include the survey information of the local authorities, the land use information available from the National Land Use Database, the Environmental Agency’s River Basin Management Plans and the planning department records of the local authorities.
Though a land may be termed as ‘contaminated’, it does not rule out the place from being a good spot to live on. In the worst possible scenario, such land may have dust and other pollutants that can cause severe health issues when people inhale them on a regular basis. The groundwater can also be polluted by these contaminants, which increases the health risk. However, most of the places which are deemed to be ‘contaminated’ and are suitable for habitation do not pose severe risks. As such, they do make ideal living locations just as any other piece of land.
The Push for Developing Contaminated Land
Most land sites that have been identified as being contaminated usually have fallen into disuse, with remnants of buildings and machinery littered all across the region. Such type of land has been called ‘Brownfield land’, which simply means that the place has already undergone a previous development. In contrast, land which has remained undeveloped is termed ‘Greenfield land’. The government has intensified its efforts to protect the Greenfield sites located at the countryside. As a result, it has started to aggressively push for development of the Brownfield land. You can also receive financial assistance from the government to remedy such land and make it suitable for living. These include stamp duty exemptions, capital allowances, special tax reliefs etc.
Though it is not a statutory requirement, many convincing solicitors do conduct environmental searches in order to find out whether the land has any serious contamination that can harm the people who will eventually live there. Such searches usually contain land use records, historical mapping of the region, and similar information that might suggest possible risks. Once the search is over, the provider often issues a certificate that either warns about possible contamination on the site or classifies the land area as free from any life-threatening contamination. A service like http://www.argyllenvironmental.co.uk/ can be used to create such environment reports about contaminated land.
In order to gain regulatory approval for developing on contaminated land, you will need to submit a Phase 1 Land Contamination Report together with a report of Flood Risk Assessment. However, if any unexpected discoveries are made at the site which indicates that the region might be polluted in more ways than expected, then a Phase 2 investigation may be required. Such unexpected discoveries include finding imported fill materials, underground storage tanks, contamination hot-spots, and so on.
The ‘Polluter Pays’ Principle
The government follow the principle of ‘polluter pays’ when it comes to contaminated land. What this means is that the party responsible for contaminating the land, whether knowingly or unknowingly, will be held liable for the costs of environmental reinstatement. However, in case the exact party responsible for the contamination cannot be identified, those who currently own the land will be held liable for bearing such costs.
Check the Local Plans
It is also a good idea to check out the Local Plans to find out more information about contaminated land. This will allow you to allocate land that has been identified as being contaminated to development projects suitable for it. Appropriate remedial measures can also be formulated by going through the information provided by these Local Plans.