Land Contamination Planning Regime

5th September 2019

Northpoint with first-hand experience of planning consultation responsibilities and land contamination assessment, summarise the related planning regime in England.

Background

Local Planning Authorities collectively across the country receive thousands of new enquiries each week. Where a developer, homeowner, architect, agent etc. submits a formal planning application, due process follows.

The LPA will consider each application in terms of size, context/complexity and sensitivity, and where required will request expert consultation responses from various parties. Statutory consultees can include highway/drainage engineers, the Environment Agency, Coal Authority, Natural England etc.

Each council holds statutory functions to manage all aspects relating to contaminated land within their geographical area. As part of the planning consultation process, contaminated land experts (acting as a statutory consultee) within the council will comment on individual planning applications, where necessary, if there are potential risks from pollution or substances in, on or below the ground that could potentially cause harm (i.e. to construction workers, future users of a site, water environments, ecology etc.).

The planning regime has changed in recent years. Several years ago, planning policy document PPS23 (Annex 2) was a useful 27-page document related to land contamination assessment ‘Land Affected by Contamination’.

Since the amendments to Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act, the National Planning Policy Framework (2012) has been introduced, and this latter framework steers the overall planning regime/process.

The Process

Where consultation indicates a potential risk to a development from land contamination, the LPA will set specific planning conditions to ensure a site is appropriately investigated and cleaned up where necessary.

The assessment process includes a phased evidence gathering approach. The land contamination assessment process is undertaken by independent professionals (such as Northpoint), who will carry out investigations in line with industry standards and codes of practice.

Land contamination planning conditions may vary, however in large consist of a 4 to 5 stage process. An applicant may be expected to submit the following (in order) to fully discharge a land contamination condition:

  1. A Phase 1 Desk Study Report (Preliminary Risk Assessment)
  2. A Phase 2 Site Investigation interpretive report including a land contamination assessment and data evidence.
  3. Where a site has unacceptable levels of contamination, a Remediation Strategy may be required in support of the Phase 1 and 2 findings.
  4. Once a site has been cleaned to a sufficient standard, submission of a validation report (verifying that the works have been completed in line with the agreed strategy).
  5. A fifth condition may require further site investigation and the reporting of unexpected/unforeseen areas of contamination not already identified.