Contaminated land

Dealing with contamination

The rules for who’s responsible for contamination and how to deal with it depend on whether the land is legally considered ‘contaminated land’.

If the land counts as contaminated land

If the land is legally considered ‘contaminated land’, the person who caused or allowed the contamination to happen is responsible for dealing with it, unless:

  • they can’t be identified
  • the local council or environment agency investigating the issue decides they’re exempt

The council or agency will then decide who’s responsible for dealing with it instead. This may be the landowner, or the person who uses the land.

What happens next

The council or agency will:

  • decide how the land should be dealt with
  • ask the responsible person to deal with the contamination
  • tell them how they should take care of it (clean it up or fence it off, for example)

If the person doesn’t deal with the contamination, the council or agency will send a ‘remediation notice’, telling them when they must take care of it by.

You can agree a voluntary scheme with the council or agency if you’re responsible for part or all of the clean up. You must tell them what steps you’ll take to clean up the land.

If the land doesn’t count as contaminated land

If the land isn’t legally considered ‘contaminated land’, you could be responsible for dealing with the contamination if you’re:

  • responsible for causing it
  • the landowner

You may face legal action if you don’t deal with contamination that you’re responsible for. Find out how to manage contamination on your land.

If you’re developing the land

You’ll have to deal with the contamination either:

  • before you get planning permission
  • as part of the development

Contact your local council to check what you must do to make sure the land is suitable for your proposed development.