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Those of you who have bought property before (whether commercial or residential) may have heard of this regime. It was introduced by the Environmental Protection Act 1995 and came into force on 1st April 2000. It is an important consideration for all property owners and occupiers.
As a result of England’s industrial past, land may have become contaminated with substances which pose a risk to the environment or human health.
The regime is therefore targeted at identifying and remedying land that may be classed as contaminated land. The environmental search (and occasionally the local authority search) will reveal whether or not land is potentially contaminated and will prompt further investigation if required.
So, what is contaminated land?
“Contaminated land” is defined as land which appears to be in a condition such that:
i)Significant harm to the environment or human health is being caused or there is a significant possibility of it being caused; or
ii)Significant pollution of controlled waters is being caused or if there is a significant possibility of it being caused.
The statutory guidance contains more detail on the level of risk required before a local authority will designate land as contaminated land. However, examples include where the land may cause death, life threatening disease, serious injury or birth defects.
How is it regulated?
Local authorities are principally responsible for identifying contaminated land within their areas. However, many local authorities have found it difficult to administer the regime due to reductions in funding and the prohibitive costs involved in assessing and investigating land.
Once a local authority has identified land as contaminated they must notify the Environment Agency, the landowners, any occupiers and any person who may be the “appropriate person” (see second blog). In the worst cases of contaminated, the Environment Agency will deal with the remediation.
Our Commercial Property team can assist with any contaminated land enquiries and support your business when purchasing property or taking a lease. Call our team on 01484 821 500.