Contaminated Land FAQs

Land contamination is affecting my house sale/purchase

Solicitors often undertake environmental searches during property sales to identify if a property could be affected by land contamination. These searches are usually based on the location of the property and whether it is within a specified distance from industrial land.  The search will not normally provide information on the actual presence of contamination.

If contamination has been identified as a potential concern then some of the options available to you are:

1. To appoint an environmental consultant to investigate the situation. A list of environmental consultants can be found on the following link:

2. Obtain appropriate environmental insurance

3. Request any available land contamination information from the council.  

In some cases the council may hold information relating to a former industrial use and land contamination. To submit an environmental information enquiry please go to this page.

Ultimately, it is the buyer who will have to interpret any information that is available and judge how they perceive the risks when deciding on any property purchase. The council will not be able to advise you on your property acquisition and in an Environmental Information enquiry, will only be able to provide factual information that is in our possession.

What can be done about land contamination?

Contaminants may be present in the ground but unless they are situated in a position where they could impact the environment or public health, and at high enough concentrations where they pose a significant risk, it would not be necessary to clean up the land.

If a risk to human health or likely pollution of controlled water exists, contamination may be cleaned up in a number of ways including:

  • removing the source of the contamination, e.g. contaminated ground, tanks or groundwater, and disposing of it at an appropriately licensed landfill site
  • covering the contamination with clean material
  • mixing the contamination with cement
  • treating the soil with microbes
  • altering the design of a development by placing more sensitive parts of the development away from more contaminated areas or installing gas protection or contamination resistant building materials.

The council will, wherever possible, encourage sustainable options as opposed to landfill.

Who's responsible for paying for land contamination?

By law, the person or organisation that caused or allowed the land contamination must pay for any treatment. However, the costs of treatment may fall on the current landowner if that person or organisation no longer exists. We've produced a policy explaining the situations where the council may assist with clean up costs for owner-occupiers of residential properties (see download section of this page).

It is important to be aware that if land is purchased with knowledge of land contamination, then the purchaser may be responsible for any required clean up of the contamination.

Last reviewed: 28 - 06 - 2016

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