Environmental Protection - Contaminated Land

Part II A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Contaminated Land (England) Regulations 2000 provide the legislative framework for the management of contaminated land.

Under this framework, Cornwall Council (as an enforcing authority) has certain obligations. These are to:­ 

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  • Inspect the district and identify any contaminated land
  • Establish responsibility for the remediation of contaminated land
  • Ensure any necessary remediation takes place, either by agreement or enforcement action
  • Determine liability for the cost of any remediation.

Contaminated land in the UK has largely arisen as a result of historic industrial activities and past waste disposal practices. Unfortunately in the past, legal controls and standards within industry were not as high as they are today. In a lot of cases, this has resulted in the ground being polluted by the wastes and materials from the industrial activity. There are some pollutants which are naturally occurring and these are also considered under this legislation.

Contaminating substances may include:

  • Metals/metallic compounds, e.g. cadmium, arsenic, lead, nickel
  • Organic compounds, e.g. oils, petrol, solvents, fats
  • Gases, e.g. methane, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulphide

For a site to be contaminated, a 'significant pollutant linkage' must always exist. The three components listed below must always be present to create a pollutant linkage:­ 

  • Source - the contamination in, on or under the land
  • Pathway - route by which contamination reaches the receptor
  • Receptor - broadly defined as living organisms, ecological systems or property.

If there is a break in this pollutant linkage (i.e. there is a source and a receptor, but no pathway) the site cannot be defined as 'contaminated land'.

In order to fulfil the obligations under the legislation, Local Authorities have published Contaminated Land Strategies.  The main objectives of the Strategy were to:­ 

  • Identify and record all sensitive receptors
  • Identify and record sites that have the potential to be contaminated
  • Assess whether a pathway exists between the potential source and receptor
  • If a potential pathway exists, carry out a further detailed inspection of the site.

As well as developing and implementing the Contaminated Land Strategy, the Council continually manages contaminated (or potentially contaminated) land through the planning and development process. This may apply when a site has a development proposal that requires planning approval. If it is believed that a site may be contaminated, then further information will normally be requested including a site investigation if required. Cornwall Council's Environmental Protection department have planning guidance for developers to follow.

Following the site investigation, if the site is found to be contaminated, the Council can require the implementation of satisfactory remedial works to ensure that the site will be fit for its intended use.

A contaminated land register is held and maintained as prescribed by part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.  The register is intended to act as a full and permanent record of the regulatory action taken by the enforcement authority in relation to the remediation of contaminated land.

In addition to the Contaminated Land Register, there are formal 'Records of Determination' for the following sites (see below).  In the case of Church Street Car Park, Falmouth, which is on land owned by Cornwall Council, a 'Remediation Declaration' has been issued which can also be viewed by following the appropriate link below

For more information on contaminated land please contact the Environmental Protection Team using the contact details on this page.