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Contaminated land

The UK has a legacy of land contaminated by former (and sometimes existing) uses. The Lancaster district is no different. Contamination may need to be dealt with during redevelopments, and the council has a statutory duty to inspect its area for contaminated land. This page describes our roles and responsibilities.

What is contaminated land and where is it?

People refer to all sorts of land as ‘contaminated’ but contaminated land has a legal definition. Commonly when talking about land contamination we mean land that may be polluted by current or previous uses – landfill sites, gas works, former factories, etc. This is quite different from land placed on a public register after detailed consideration and legal decisions. The public register identifies formal contaminated land within the Lancaster district. Currently there are no sites on the register.

Strategic and statutory duties:  inspection and enforcement for contaminated land

The council has a statutory duty to prepare and, from time to time, review an inspection strategy for contaminated land under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, Part 2A. The inspection strategy sets out our rationale and commitments for statutory inspection to identify any legally defined ‘Contaminated Land’ and enforce remediation when required. 

A second edition of the inspection strategy was published in January 2010. Relatively few changes have been made since the text of the first edition, apart from fully updating the work programme. A third edition is currently being prepared to take account of recent statutory guidance.

A summary note (PDF, 39KB) and the full Inspection Strategy (PDF, 516KB) are available to download. Paper copies will be placed in both Lancaster and Morecambe public libraries.

Implementation of the inspection strategy falls to our environmental health service and contaminated land officer.

Land contamination – Considerations for new developments

National planning policy provides that land contamination is a material consideration when determining planning applications. Lancaster City Council is pursuing regeneration programmes. The Government has recently re-committed to ensuring as much new housing as possible is built on brownfield sites. As a result of these issues we expect to see land contamination being a factor in many new developments. People involved in developments – applicants, agents, developers, contractors and consultants – will need to consider the issue of land contamination. Failing to do so responsibly and effectively can result in harm to health, environmental pollution, loss of land value and legal action. Even when developments do not require planning permission they will need the same consideration and treatment.

We expect potential land contamination issues to be professionally and thoroughly approached and all work should reflect modern good practice. However, national policy has recently undergone important changes and we have produced a technical advice note which clarifies current responsibilities, requirements and expected standards of work. It is important that planning applicants obtain and follow this advice to enable the smooth processing of their planning applications. Developers, contractors and consultants should be aware that we have expressly advised its requirements in this way. Please note that this advice is likely to be revised regularly and at short notice.

Please note that this is still in draft format.  All enquiries, comments or feedback on the content of this advice note should be sent to 

Preventing new contamination

Our district has a rich natural heritage including coastline with special protection designations and rivers prized for fishing, water abstractions and recreational uses. However our local geography is such that leaks or spillages of mobile contaminants such as fuel oils and solvents will quickly reach watercourses. The effects could be devastating. With this in mind our inspection strategy for contaminated land includes proposals for preventing new contamination. The following sources of Environment Agency guidance are particularly helpful for this purpose:

Environmental information

Environmental Health Services holds environmental information on a range of subjects, for example:

  • Contaminated Land
  • Historical land uses
  • Prescribed industrial processes
  • Scrapyards
  • Private water supplies

Environmental Information is made available in accordance with the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 when you submit a written request including:

  • The address of the land in question
  • A map showing the location of the land and clearly delineating the boundary of the land in question
  • Any reasonable and specific questions regarding the land
  • A statement of a date when you require the information by
  • Payment of the fee (payable to Lancaster City Council) which is £127.50 (inc VAT) for residents, £162 (inc VAT) for other applicants

To request environmental information please complete and print our Environmental Information Request Form, sign it and send our postal address below together with your payment.

Links to other websites

If you experience problems accessing any of these links, or if you have suggestions for more links, please let us know.

Compendium websites:

Discussion forums for professionals dealing with land contamination:

Key organisations:

Last updated: 18 April 2023

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