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Contaminated land

What is contaminated land?

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 legally defines land that is contaminated where substances are causing, or could cause:

  • significant harm to people, property or protected species
  • significant pollution of surface water (such as lakes and rivers) or groundwater 
  • harm to people as a result of radioactivity

The contamination can be caused by substances including metals such as lead, chromium or arsenic, oil and tars, asbestos, or radioactive substances. 

Land can be contaminated if it was previously the site of a factory, mine, landfill site or other previous industrial use.

Contaminated land is a problem if it presents a threat to the environment, or if it poses risks to people using the land.

Development of Contaminated Land

Many of the potentially contaminated sites are dealt with through the planning processIf you are planning any building or development in North Lanarkshire you should consider previous land uses. Further information can be found in our Contaminated Land Planning Guidance. For advice regarding development on contaminated land and how to discharge any planning condtions relating to potential contamination visit the planning pages of this website.

Further information on the development of land which may be affected by contamination can be found at the National House Building Council (NHBC) Website and at Environmental Protection Scotland.

This table from the NHBC guidance details the roles and responsibilities of different parties in the development process.

From NHBC Guidance: Roles and responsibilities in the development process
Party Roles and responsibilities
Owner/Developer Responsible for implementing site investigations using appropriately qualified persons, sufficient to undertake an appropriate assessment of potential risks. Responsible for demonstrating that potentially unacceptable risks can be successfully mitigated by remediation. Responsible for implementation works and verification. Particular responsibilities under CDM Regulations.
Local planning authority Responsible for determining the appropriateness and acceptability of the developer's site investigation, risk assessment and proposal for remediation. Responsible for control of development, taking into account all material considerations including contamination. Responsible for ensuring that planning conditions are complied with.
Environmental Health (Contamainated Land Officers) Responsible for carrying out duties of inspection and determination under Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Responsible for the provision of advice to Planning Department colleagues on technical matters related to land affected by contamination to include monitoring of compliance with planning conditions. Responsible for determination of appropriateness and acceptability of the developer's site investigation, risk assessment and proposal for remediation. 
Scottish Environemental Protection Agency Responsible as the enforcing authority under Part 2A for "Special Sites". Responsible for control under the PPC Regulation to prevent future contamination. Responsible for the protection of controlled waters. During development, responsible as a consultee to advise on pollution of controlled waters and waste management.
Health & Safety Executive Responsible for the enforcment of health and safety at work and providing particular advice when working on land affected by contamination. Particular provisions under CDM.
Local Authority Building Standards  Responsible for the implementation/enforcement of Building Regulations. Consult with Environmental Health when contaminated land is suspected.

Our duties in relation to contaminated land

Under the Environmental Protection Act and the Contaminated Land (Scotland) Regulations 2005 councils have the following duties in terms of contaminated land in their area:

  • Prepare an inspection strategy detailing how they have prioritised sites to investigate and giving information about who is responsible for contaminated land and for making it safe. 
  • Inspect areas to identify contaminated land
  • Investigate land to determine if it meets the statutory definition of contaminated land
  • Find out who is responsible for the land
  • Make sure appropriate remediation of the land takes place either through agreement with those responsible or serving a remediation notice
  • Keep a public register in relation to contaminated land.

Contaminated land can have significant financial and legal implications for land owners. Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) are also involved in regulating and preventing future land contamination.

If you have concerns or suspect that land may be contaminated, please contact us.

Contaminated Land Strategy


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Page last updated:
27 Jan 2023

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