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Assessment and remediation of contaminated land through the planning system - SP1005

England has a substantial legacy of chemical contaminants in soil, mainly resulting from industrial pollution. Government has a wide range of policies specifically designed to prevent new contamination (such as pollution control legislation) and to deal with existing contamination (such as the contaminated land regime, Part 2A Environmental Protection Act 1990). The development management system also has a key part to play in addressing the problem of historical land contamination and advice is provided to Local Authorities in Planning Policy Statement 23 (PPS23): Planning and Pollution Control.

Since 1994 planning authorities have had a specific duty to consider the possibility of historic contamination when assessing planning applications and to require work to ensure that the site is made suitable for its proposed new use. Since 2000, there has also been a statutory requirement for local authorities to inspect land in their area to identify land which in its current use, is posing a significant risk to people or the environment. The introduction of this legislation is commonly believed to have had an impact on the remediation activity which has taken place through the planning system. One aim of the research is to attempt to quantify this through the assessment of the number of sites where potentially contaminated land has been successfully addressed through the planning system in England since 1994 and 2000.

The management of land contamination in the UK (either through planning or Part 2A) is centred on a risk based framework, recognising that whilst contamination can be present, it has to be present at such concentrations and in such circumstances that it has the potential to cause harm. Government policy is clear that the risks need to be addressed on a site-by-site basis, due to the different circumstances and risk scenarios at each site. It is therefore the case that the extent of remediation will vary from site to site. A further aim of the research is to explore the range of concentrations of different contaminants specified as limit values in planning permission conditions and associated use of land.

The information to be gathered through this project is not readily available from local planning authorities as there is not currently a statutory requirement to specifically collect such information. It may be that some local authority contaminated land officers collect some of this information as part of their statutory duties under Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, e.g. where sites which are on their prioritised list for inspection are subsequently redeveloped and so dealt with through the planning regime. However, it is likely that any such information would be stored in many different forms and therefore time consuming to retrieve and collate. It is also possible that there are issues related to data quality by virtue of the various methods used to collect and record it. In view of these difficulties and to avoid the data gathering exercise being burdensome, a phased approach will be taken to the data collection exercise.

Firstly, a pilot study will be undertaken to establish the feasibility of collecting sufficient and reliable data. This will then inform the nature and extent of the main survey. There is also the option of holding regional workshops to get maximum engagement on the more general aspects of the project as well as to ‘test’ the initial findings from the quantitative portion of the main survey.

The research will gather data which has not been collated in this way before and will present a picture of the effectiveness of key contaminated land policy to date which can in turn inform the policy making of the future.
The research requirements for the project are outlined in the Competition Details and Project Specification. These have been used as a basis for the production of the following project objectives linked to our recommended phased approach as described in Section 7(c):

Objective 1
Develop a pilot and full survey in accordance with the requirements of the Survey Control Liaison Unit (SCLU) in Defra. The surveys will be used to gather data from a representative number of local authorities about the extent and nature of contaminated land activity that has taken place in England (1) since the introduction of PPG23 in 1994 and (2) since the introduction of Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act in 2000.

Objective 2
Conduct a pilot study to establish the feasibility of collecting sufficient and reliable data to be able to provide an overview of contaminated land activity as required by the project specification.

Objective 3
Conduct full survey of a representative number of local authorities.

Objective 4 (optional but recommended)
Conduct regional workshops to provide further feedback from local authorities on issues of how their authority deals with land contamination in their area, their successes and lessons learnt.

Objective 5
Collation, assessment and reporting of the survey (and workshop) findings.

Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : Appendices to report SP1005   (1148k)
• FRP - Final Report : Assessment and remediation of land contamination through the planning system   (449k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2010

To: 2011

Cost: £29,486
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Environmental Protection UK
Environmental Protection