What is Contaminated Land?
Contaminated land is land that is a potential hazard to the environment because it has been polluted usually due to industrial use which has now ceased such as power plants, rubbish sites, mining, factories, steelworks, refineries and other agricultural activities.
What’s the legal risk ?
Contaminated land issues usually arise in conveyancing transactions. The buyer’s solicitor will invariably undertake a Local Authority Search and modern searches will reveal any past potentially contaminative activity on the land.
Whilst it is usually highly unlikely that the land in question is still contaminated, there is a residual risk and consequently the issue cannot be simply overlooked.
What usually happens is that the buyer’s solicitor will advise the buyer and also his, her or their mortgage lenders of the issue. A lender may refuse to proceed but the more likely outcome is that it will require an indemnity (insurance) policy to be taken out f or the benefit of the buyer and lender.
In turn, the buyer’s solicitors will normally insist that the seller pays for the indemnity policy, which is a one off cost, and not time limited.
In short, the risk is usually low, there is usually a solution, but it may well create a delay on the transaction.
There is a growing movement for contaminated land sites to be redeveloped and purified, particularly where the construction industry is targeting untouched (and unharmed), natural green sites such as parks and woodlands. There is also a movement for these sites to be developed because whilst disused they can result in social and financial problems (such as a decrease in house prices) in addition to the environmental problems.
Over the last couple of decades hundreds of contaminated sites have been treated. Local authorities are required to assess contaminated land sites to identify which sites need to be made safe. This work will then either be carried out by the local authority, landowners, or other responsible parties such as developers who will usually be required to improve the land as part of any planning conditions. If you are a land owner you should be aware that you are responsible for contamination issues on your land and for ensuring that it is safe for future use.
The following is a list of the main pieces of legislation which aims to curtail contaminated land:
- Environmental Protection Act 1990
- Contaminated Land Regulations 2006 & 2012
- The Water Act 2003
For further assistance, why not get in touch with me or alternatively visit our conveyancing section of this site.
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