By Legal Futures’ Associates Redbrick Solutions 
At its worst, contaminated land may present a hazard to potential users of the land or environment. Although in most cases the risks associated with living on sites that have been previously used by industry are low. Users may become exposed to contaminants such as by inhalation of hazardous materials and also through food grown on the land. There may be indirect effects on users such as damage to buildings. Substances can leach out of the soil to pollute groundwater, rivers or ponds. Some contaminants may be corrosive, and some can cause explosion or fire.
In most large towns and cities there are sites that have fallen into disuse and these have an environmental and social effect on the surrounding area. Although much of this Brownfield land may have been contaminated, past redevelopment of these sites was less well regulated and there was less concern for the management of the potentially hazardous substances present. Correctly managed, there is no reason why previously contaminated Brownfield sites cannot be safely occupied for residential use.
The Government wants to bring as much Brownfield land as possible back into use and is encouraging the regeneration of previously developed land to limit unnecessary development of Greenfield sites and preserve the countryside. As an understanding of the importance of land contamination has increased, so it has become more common for solicitors to make enquiries about land contamination.
Legislation introduced in 2000 (Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990) places certain duties on Local Councils and landowners regarding contaminated land, and this has made it much more likely that possible contamination is considered when a property is bought or sold.
Although not a statutory requirement, environmental searches are frequently carried out by conveyancing solicitors to identify contamination that might affect the property being offered for sale. These environmental searches are most often provided by commercial organisations and are supplied at various levels of detail, ranging from the provision of purely factual information through to a detailed interpretation of findings. Generally, the searches include a study of old historical mapping, land use records and other information that might indicate matters of potential concern. As a result of these searches, the provider may issue a certificate that the site appears to be at minimal risk of being affected by contamination. Alternatively, if contamination is suspected a certificate may be withheld, but a warning issued that contamination may be present.
To find out more, join our complimentary webinar ‘Contaminated Land: How To Protect Your Client’ which will be hosted by CLS Senior Business Development Manager, Neil Wood. The session will cover; A look into our Environmental Report provider – Future Climate Info (FCI) Origins, Law Society and CML obligations, The Legacy of Contaminated Land, Case Studies, What do we check for? Further Actions and how to deal with them. Brownfield Pressure, Retail Reports, Commercial Reports, Residential Reports and Follow on Services.
The webinar will be taking place on March 2nd at 11am. ‘Contaminated Land: How to protect your client’ Please register here if you are interested. https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2866868129440395023