Planning, technical guidance and screening assessment for land contamination
National Policy Framework and Land Contamination
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) sets out the Government’s planning policies for England and how these are expected to be applied.
Land contamination issues are contained in the NPPF, such that planning policies and decisions should ensure that:
- the site is suitable for its proposed use taking account of ground conditions and land instability, including from natural hazards or former activities such as mining, pollution arising from previous uses and any proposals for mitigation including land remediation or impacts on the natural environment arising from that remediation
- after remediation, as a minimum, land should not be capable of being determined as “contaminated land” under Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990
- adequate site investigation information, prepared by a “competent person”, is presented.
Where a site is affected by contamination or land stability issues, responsibility for securing a safe development rests with the developer and/or landowner.
National Quality Mark Scheme – Land Contamination Management
On 9 January 2017 the Land Forum launched a National Quality Mark Scheme (NQMS) for Land Contamination Management. The scheme is a voluntary scheme by which land contamination documents submitted by developers to regulators in support of planning applications and applications to clear planning conditions can bear an individual quality mark to show that good practice has been followed and land contamination issues adequately assessed. Although the Council supports any industry effort to improve the quality of information submitted, it has concerns about the scheme and has therefore decided, not to recognise or adopt the NQMS at this time.
All land contamination reports and information submitted to the Local Planning Authority will continue to be reviewed and assessed by the Council’s Environmental Health Section in the normal way. The Council may revisit this decision as the scheme becomes established and will communicate any change in policy accordingly.
The Council reviews all planning applications to assess any likely land contamination issues that may arise. Where it is appropriate the Council will require conditions be attached to planning approval to address any outstanding land contamination issues. Planning conditions require the submission of the following phased information for approval.
- Phase 1 - Desktop Study, Site Inspection and Sampling and Analysis Plan (SAP)
- Phase 2 – Site Investigation and Risk Assessment (based on an approved sampling and analysis plan)
- Phase 3 – Remediation and Verification strategy
- Phase 4 – Verification and Completion report (demonstrating the completion and effectiveness of remedial works)
Any changes to the Remediation Statement, (perhaps due to changes in project objectives or as a result of the discovery of unexpected contamination), must not be carried out without the prior written agreement of the LPA.
Site Investigation and Risk Assessment Guidance
The Council reviews all site investigation and risk assessment reports submitted for planning and development purposes and refers closely to the technical requirements set out in National standards, guidelines and relevant international standards. These include, but are not limited to,
National Standards and Guidelines
- British Standards Institution (2015). BS 8485:2015 + A1:2019: Code of Practice for the Characterisation and Remediation from Ground Gas in Affected Developments. BSI, London
- British Standards Institution (2011). BS 10175:2011 + A2:2017: Investigation of Potentially Contaminated Sites - Code of Practice. BSI, London
- British Standards Institution (2015). BS 5930:2015: Code of Practice for Site Investigations. BSI, London
- Construction Industry Research and Information Association (2007). CIRIA C665: Assessing Risks Posed by Hazardous Ground Gases to Buildings. CIRIA, London
- Construction Industry Research and Information Association (2014). CIRIA C735: Good Practice on the testing and verification of protection systems for buildings against hazardous ground gases
- Construction Industry Research and Information Association (2014). CIRIA C766: Asbestos in Soil and Made Ground – A Guide to Understanding and Managing Risks. CIRIA, London
- Department of the Environment (1995). Industry Profiles (Various Titles). DoE, London
- Environment Agency (2015). Contaminated Land Exposure Assessment (CLEA): Software and Relevant Publications. Environment Agency, Bristol
- Environment Agency (2006). Remedial Targets Methodology – Hydrogeological Risk Assessment for Land Contamination. Environment Agency, Bristol
- Environment Agency (2019): Land Contamination: Risk Management (LCRM) [external link]
- National House Building Council, Environment Agency and CIEH (2008). R and D Publication 66: Guidance for the Safe Development of Housing on Land Affected by Contamination. NHBC and Environment Agency, London
- National House Building Council (2007). Guidance on Evaluation of Development Proposals on Sites where Methane and Carbon Dioxide are Present. NHBC, London
Regional Guidance (Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Pollution Advisory Group)
- YALPAG, June 2020. Development on Land Affected by Contamination – Technical Guidance for Developers, Landowners and Consultants [pdf document]
- YALPAG, June 2021. Verification Requirements for Cover Systems - Technical Guidance for Developers, Landowners and Consultants [pdf document]
- YALPAG, December 2016. Verification Requirements for Gas Protection Systems - Technical Guidance for Developers, Landowners and Consultants [pdf document]
National Planning Guidance
- Department for Communities and Local Government. National Planning Policy Framework [external link]
- Department for Communities and Local Government. National Planning Practice Guidance: Land affected by contamination [external link]
The investigation, assessment, clean-up and management of land affected by contamination is technically complex.
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requires that land contamination projects should be conducted and/or supervised by a recognised “competent person”.
Competent person (to prepare site investigation information): A person with a recognised relevant qualification, sufficient experience in dealing with the type(s) of pollution or land instability, and membership of a relevant professional organisation.
The Council expects that all new land contamination reports submitted to the Council for planning purposes be accompanied by a current CV of the competent person with responsibility for report delivery, clearly demonstrating their qualifications and relevant experience in all aspects of site investigation, risk assessment, and contamination remediation and management, including contaminated soils, groundwater, ground-gases/vapours and asbestos in soils (as required by the project).
The Council reviews all remediation, verification and completion reports submitted for planning and development purposes.
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requires that, “after remediation, as a minimum, land should not be capable of being determined as contaminated land under Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990” and that “the responsibility for securing a safe development rests with the developer and/or landowner”.
To be confident that remediation works are conducted in accordance with National standards, guidelines and current best practice, the Council requires that verification is provided to demonstrate that works are effective in minimising human health and environmental risk. This may take the form of post remediation inspection, sampling and analysis and risk assessment.
In certain circumstances site remediation may include the installation of clean cover systems, groundwater monitored natural attenuation or ground-gas monitoring and protection infrastructure that require on-going maintenance and management.
To ensure that the integrity and effectiveness of these measures is maintained into the future, the site may require an On-going Site Management Plan (OSMP) which should be submitted to the Council.
The On-going Site Management Plan should include provisions for transferring responsibility for the maintenance of the clean-up strategy following change in ownership.
Screening Assessment Tool for Small-Scale Development
The Council recognises that the investigation, risk assessment, remediation and management of land contamination is a complex and expensive process and may not be appropriate for small-scale developments.
For the Local Planning Authority is able to be satisfied that the land is “suitable for use” the Council provides a “Screening Assessment Tool” to be used for small-scale development projects for example, construction of a new house in an existing garden area.
The screening assessment may also be appropriate to use for prior approval planning applications.
The use of the “Screening Assessment Tool” needs to be agreed with Environmental Health and should not be used if you are developing larger housing developments, allotments, schools, nurseries, children’s play areas, playing fields, or if there has been a past industrial use on or adjacent to the land.
If you are applying for planning permission and it is appropriate to complete the Screening Assessment Form or if you have submitted a planning application and been requested by Environmental Health to complete the Screening Assessment Form please complete the Screening Assessment form [word document].
The information you provide in the form will allow a fair and reasoned judgement to be made and may dispense with the need for land contamination conditions to be attached to any planning permission granted.
The Local Planning Authority reserves the right to request further information or documents as necessary. If at any point when completing the form you suspect there is a likelihood that contamination may exist on the site (or on an adjacent site), which could affect the proposed use, it is strongly advised that you contact Environmental Health before continuing.
Further details on completing the form can be found in appendix 2 of the YALPAG Version 11.2 June 2020 guidance or by contacting the contaminated land officer.