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Contaminated Land Risk Assessment


Contaminated Land Risk Assessment

What are Contaminated Land Risk Assessments?

A contaminated land assessment is used to evaluate the potential for hazardous substances that may be present on site to cause harm or damage, to consider the level of risk and whether any actions are required to manage or mitigate the risk. Assessment uses the CLR11 source-pathway-receptor pollutant linkage method.  Land is considered to be contaminated if:

  • It has been affected by a pollutant (known as the source).
  • Someone or something (known as the receptor) is present which could be affected by the pollutant.
  • The pollutant can get to the receptor in sufficient quantities to cause harm (known as the pathway).

Even apparent greenfield sites may be contaminated. Environmental phase 1 desk study reports provide a range of options to obtain a good understanding of the site’s history, setting and potential to be affected by contamination.

Contaminated land assessments are required as part of a planning application or to discharge planning conditions imposed by a local planning authority, the Environment Agency or the National House Building Council. These are very common for brownfield land, but could be applied wherever there is a history of past industrial use.

How does this affect my client?

Local Authorities will require a contaminated land risk assessment to be provided as part of its planning conditions or in pre-planning submissions. Depending on the nature of the site, its industrial past and its sensitivity in its setting, there may be a requirement for more detailed site investigations.

Architects and planning consultants need to be able to advise their client on any potential land quality issues that could affect the economic viability of the development project. They also need to flag up any potential liability concerns for remediation and/or pollution issues that their client may inherit. This can in turn affect commercial lending and insurance terms.

Find out more about how GeoSmart can assist in relation to Contaminated Land at your Site here.

Soil Surveys

Sometimes a soil survey may be recommended by regulating bodies and it is important to review if mapped data is sufficient or site investigation and sampling is required. Further information on the different aspects of a contaminated land assessment is available from our top articles section.

Understanding Local Authority Requirements

Planning conditions on Contaminated Land Risk Assessment vary across the country. It is crucial that Architects and planning consultants understand these differences, assess the site and are aware of the further investigations that may be necessary to be included in a future remediation strategy for the site.

We have developed a unique catalogue of planning authority Contaminated Land Risk Assessment requirements.


Get an Expert View on Contaminated Land

We have many years experience in assessing land quality, site investigations and recommending next steps, as part of Master planning and pre-application submissions.

We have a proven track record of delivering successful outcomes through our technical expertise.

Our contaminated land risk assessment reports provide:

  • A Phase 1 risk assessment on the past use of the site
  • A manual review of historical maps of the site
  • A consultant’s professional opinion
  • Options for providing a site walkover and review of the planning history.
  • Expert help to discharge planning conditions


What is a Phase 1 Contaminated Land Report?

A Phase 1 Contaminated Land Report is a literature-based review designed to give an overview of the risk of land or groundwater contamination to end-users (house occupiers or workers) and the immediate environment.

A Phase 1 Study collates relevant information from a variety of sources relating to the setting of the site and its previous historical uses. The end product is an interpretive report that contains a qualitative risk assessment, including a conceptual site model that describes the potentially significant sources of contamination, receptors and pathways.

The study involves multiple sources of information often including Ordnance Survey maps, geological and groundwater vulnerability maps, aerial photographs, local and national archives, and newspapers and registers held by relevant regulatory agencies. A site walkover (land investigation) may be required to support the collated desk-based information, to provide details of the current condition of the site, and to gather evidence of potential contamination.

When a site walkover is requested, we will generally conduct the walkover following the initial desk study to ensure a ‘best value’ approach in meeting regulations and individual report needs.

What does a Phase 1 Report contain?

A Phase 1 Study collates relevant information from a variety of sources relating to the site setting and its previous historical uses. The end product is an interpretive report that describes the likely presence of any contamination within the subsurface, and the potential risks that this may pose to future site users and the immediate environment. A site walkover may be required to support the desk study information and to provide greater certainty in the report findings.

Who are Phase 1 Contaminated Land Reports intended for?

  • Property developers
  • Self-build
  • Property professionals such as architects, planning consultants and land agents
  • Lawyers and solicitors
  • Lenders, banks or mortgage providers
  • Businesses
  • Insurance companies

Why might a Phase 1 Contaminated Land Report be required?

  • Validating planning applications
  • Meeting planning conditions
  • For land and property purchase
  • For the sale or divestment of a site
  • Due diligence
  • Lending, mortgages, pension funds
  • Business risk assessment

Can contaminated land affect the development process?

If land is highlighted by the local planning authority as potentially being contaminated, the authority’s Contaminated Land Officer is likely to impose a planning condition that an assessment must be completed for clarification. Until that assessment has been completed and accepted by the Contaminated Land Officer, the development should not proceed.

Who is responsible or has a duty of care in contaminated land issues?

The original polluter of the land is officially the person or organisation responsible for any liabilities relating to land contamination. As the pollution may have occurred decades earlier, potentially prior to legislation, this person or organisation may never be found and it is therefore the new owner who will be responsible. It is essential that the person responsible for undertaking the property purchase or development, and their legal advisor, understands the degree of risks and potential financial implications.

Each local authority has a general responsibility for identifying and deciding on necessary actions in relation to contaminated land in its area. Land can potentially be sold when contaminated and the responsibility may end up being passed onto the new owner, or indeed a bank or mortgage lender if the new purchaser was to default. In summary, professional advice should always be sought prior to purchase on any previously developed land.






How we can help our clients


Some examples of how our contaminated land risk assessments have supported our clients planning submission requirements.

Phase 1 Desk Study for Change of Use from Commercial to Residential Property
We were commissioned to undertake an EnviroSmart Report to satisfy a condition imposed by the local planning authority
Additional Dwelling in a Garden – Reading.
We undertook an EnviroSmart Report to address a planning condition attached to a planning application that had been granted for the erection of a detached residential dwelling.
Mixed Use Land Assessment, Manchester.
We were commissioned to undertake an EnviroSmart Pro Report to support the acquisition of a site in Manchester.



We also run a regular series of webinars and can provide in-house seminars to ensure your team is up to speed on the latest requirements and support their CPD needs.