Contaminated land

Why does land contamination matter?

Our rich industrial heritage in the UK has left its scars on the land. Some of these are clearly visible and self-evident, while others may be more subtle and nuanced but not necessarily any less potent. As pressure on development land grows, the need to engage with brownfield land and redevelopment grows with it. At these junctions between the past and the present, the property industry needs to tread carefully and act responsibly to develop a sustainable future and leave a better legacy for generations to come.

Most property professionals will at some stage or other encounter land contamination, and will need to advise on the management of technical risks and associated liabilities on behalf of a client. It’s important to note that the technical risks are not necessarily the same as the commercial and legal liabilities. Positive and early engagement with the issues can lead to realistic budget setting and programming, as well as happy stakeholders, while overlooking the fundamentals can lead to serious miscalculations, unhappy clients or, at worst, litigation.

This section sets out the key things you as a surveyor and property professional need to know, in as clear and accessible non-technical language as possible. It also includes more formal definitions, common types, and sources and causes of contamination, and discusses environmental, legal and practical matters relating to contaminated land. It does not deal with radioactivity.

Key areas where land contamination is relevant to property include:

  • transactions
  • mergers and acquisitions
  • leasehold and permitting
  • planning and
  • construction.

This section is maintained by James Mortimer of Yellow Sub Geo Ltd.