Contaminated Land

Land Quality

The UK has a legacy of land contamination due to past land uses, for example industry or waste disposal. These sites can generally only be determined as contaminated following a detailed site inspection and risk assessment.


The remediation of contaminated land is dealt with on the basis that it is 'suitable for use'. Land should be suitable for its current use, or alternatively, suitable for any proposed new use that is to be given planning permission. The 'suitable for use' approach is designed to bring together environmental, social and economic needs in the context of contaminated land.

Contaminated land is land that meets the definition below, as set out in the regulations.  Please also visit Relevant Legislation.  The term does not automatically apply to land even if it is known that contaminants are present.  A Pollutant Linkage must also be established in order to meet the definition of contaminated land.

''Contaminated land' is any land, which appears to the local authority in whose area it is situated to be in such a condition, by reason of substances in, on or under the land, that:

  • Significant harm is being caused or there is significant possibility of such harm being caused;
  • Pollution of controlled waters is being or is likely to be caused.

Therefore, contaminated land is where substances in or under the land make it actually or potentially hazardous to people's health, or hazardous to our environment.

'Harm' is regarded to be 'significant' only if it includes death, disease, serious injury, genetic mutation, birth defects or impairment of reproductive function in humans; irreversible adverse change in the functioning of an ecological system; death, disease, other physical damage of livestock, crops, produce or domesticated or wild animals; substantial damage to, or structural failure of buildings; or interference with rights of occupation.