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What does ‘contaminated land’ mean?

Identifying if your land is contaminated and assessing the associated risk is often an essential part of obtaining planning permission or entering into a property transaction. Since contaminated land can be detrimental to human health, the water environment and property, it’s paramount to recognise when land presents unacceptable risk and how to deal with it to move your project forward.

What does contaminated land mean?

Contaminated land refers to soil, groundwater, or surface water that has been polluted by human activities, such as industrial processes, spills and leaks and waste disposal. This can include a wide range of substances, including heavy metals, hydrocarbons (e.g. fuels / oils), pesticides, and asbestos.

It should also be recognised that even seemingly harmless historical uses of a site may have resulted in land contamination, e.g. the former presence of historical residential buildings on a site could have introduced asbestos to shallow soils from usage in the buildings. The presence of these pollutants can pose significant risks to human health, the environment and property if left unaddressed.

When should land be investigated for contamination?

Assessing the risk associated with contaminated land is crucial, especially in the context of new developments. The UK planning system requires developers to identify and assess potential issues before proceeding with construction to safeguard human health and the environment. Failure to address contaminated land adequately can result in costly remediation efforts, delays in development, and potential legal liabilities.

When do you deal with contamination if you’re developing land?

Contaminated land poses both challenges and significant opportunities for developers in the UK. Under the UK planning system, developers are required to conduct a thorough assessment as part of the planning process. This assessment typically involves a phased approach, starting with a Phase 1 Contaminated Land Assessment.


In conclusion, proper assessment and management of risks are essential to ensure safe and sustainable development while maximising the potential of sites for redevelopment.

The Phase 1 Contaminated Land Assessment serves as a crucial first step in this process, laying the groundwork for informed decision-making and effective risk management throughout the development lifecycle.

If you’re looking for a fast, affordable and hassle-free route to obtaining planning permission, the team at Ashfield is here to help. Reach out to us today to learn more about how we can support your planning applications with our expert Phase 1 environmental assessments.