Contaminated Land

Fulham Palace Rd Cemetery Lodge

“Before” when we undertook our walkover in January 2017

We have been involved in this project from the start, and first visited site on 16 January 2017 to undertake a site walkover for our phase 1 desktop study. Subsequently we undertook an intrusive investigation and produced a remediation strategy to deal with the contamination identified.

We returned in January 2021 to undertake verification sampling in the gardens of the completed project. It is a truly splendid building, more details can be found on Simon Gill Architects website. If you want to see the interior and follow the development you can watch the Grand Designs episode of More 4.

Artist’s impression by kind permission of Simon Gill Architects
Artist’s impression by kind permission of Simon Gill Architects

Plan to regenerate England’s cities with new homes

New measures to recover from the pandemic and help provide much-needed new homes have been set out recently by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick.

Under the proposals, cities will be encouraged to plan for more family homes – which are the right size and type for families to live in – and to make the most of vacant buildings and underused land to protect green spaces. 

Using brownfield sites clearly makes sense on many levels but does it stack up financially. We cannot provide cost advice but what we do know is that contamination and remediation can have a dramatic impact on costs. Contamination is not a separate issue to be considered later, cost effective remediation could impact site levels, drainage strategy and site layout. Getting early advice is crucial if remediation costs are to be minimised.

Permitted development rights – England

A developer is now able to give planning authorities “Prior Notification” of certain changes of use rather than applying for full planning permission. These changes of use include:
 Change of use of a building from business to residential
 Change of use of a building to a school
 Change of use from an agricultural building to another use

The process requires a developer to make an application to the local planning authority for a determination as to whether prior approval will be required as to the transport and highway impacts, flooding risk and contamination risk. This application must be made before beginning a development and the application should consist of the developer’s
details and a plan showing the proposed development. Further information is only required if the local planning authority consider it necessary to assess the transport impact, flood or contamination risk. If there is no risk identified, prior approval is not required and the development can take place without further permission from the local planning authority.

We have considerable experience of preparing contaminated land desktop reports and flood risk assessments for these types of projects. If you would like some advice on a project call me, Peter George on 07765 232995.

EPUK Release a Guide to Redeveloping Petrol Filling Stations

This timely document is entitled Before You Dig, Garages & Petrol Stations, Guidance for Developers, EPUK. David Rudland et al.

EPUK say “This guide has been produced now because we anticipate alternative fuels will make many of the 8500 retail forecourts in the UK surplus over the next 5-10 years or so. Repurposing this kind of brownfield site presents particular challenges of the sort that drive some developers to seek greenfield sites instead.

The guide describes how petrol stations were constructed, operated, and decommissioned, outlining particular issues around decontamination and signposting towards further guidance. Tips for good practice and case studies appear throughout.

Judicial Review Appeal with Potentially Far Reaching Implications for Contaminated Land Rejected

In summary we can breath a sigh of relief and carry on as before with a system that allows contaminated land to be dealt with by planning conditions.

An appeal for judicial review was made against a Derbyshire council’s consent for a 200-home development less than 100m from a former landfill. The points of appeal in a layman’s summary were a contention that the contaminated land issues had not been adequately addressed. The appeal was rejected after concluding that there was no obligation for any potential contamination of the application site to be assessed and removed before approval was granted.

Environment Agency update on Land Contamination Risk Management (LCRM) guidance

A major update was planned but due to Covid 19 has been delayed. We have received the following email:

MESSAGE FROM ENVIRONMENT AGENCY – PLEASE SHARE.  Unfortunately I am not able to answer any specific follow on questions and cannot give a precise publication date as the publishing lead within the EA has to prioritise coronavirus work.

Dear All

In June 2019, the Environment Agency (EA) published an update to the Model procedures for the management of land contamination (CLR11).

Following the feedback, the EA were due to republish the revised Land contamination: risk management (LCRM) in early 2020.

Given the current coronavirus situation, the EA have decided not to republish a major update.  The time is not right.

Interim update

The EA are however, going to publish an interim update. This includes:

1.     Updated text on the requirements for MCERTS.

2.     Additional  text on the use of in situ testing and rapid measurement techniques (RMTs).

The change to the MCERTS text clarifies that it is only required by the EA on sites that they regulate.

The text on RMTs is not new. It is a part of the MCERTS guidance and in a former position statement and in situ testing is briefly mentioned in CLR11. The EA has updated this text to make it clear these tests subject to meeting other requirements, can be used.

The current coronavirus situation is one of the reasons for publishing the interim update. The use of in situ testing and RMTs may help relieve the pressure from laboratories affected by the current situation.

The EA will publish the interim update as soon as the GOV.UK publishing resource is available.

The Government is Launching a National Brownfield Map

On 12 March 2020 the Government published a policy document entitled ‘Planning for the Future‘ which sets out its plans for the delivery of housing and further reforms to the planning system.

Within the document the government undertakes to launch a national brownfield sites map in April 2020. It will also conduct a call for proposals to seek evidence on the barriers to, and opportunities in, building above stations in urban areas. We are not entirely sure why the government appear to see these two items as inextricably linked.

The document goes on to say “It is vital that we make the most of existing transport hubs, encouraging modern, green communities where people live close to public transport.”

We await the publication of the map with bated breath.

Reducing Risk & Preventing Claims on Complex Brownfield Residential Sites

Car Parts found in the garden topsoil of a recently occupied development

The title of a very informative article in the September/October AGS Magazine. If you want to take advantage of the opportunities or avoid the risks of contaminated land then this article is worth a read.

It helps to underline the fact that for a successful project contaminated land has to be addressed as an integrated part of the project and not an after thought. The latter approach often leads to delays and additional costs.

For more detailed advice we would also recommend the CIRIA guidance for small brownfield sites and contaminated land, A guide to small brownfield sites and land contamination (C773) which provides clarity and greater confidence to those looking to develop small brownfield and potentially contaminated land sites. The guide is available to NHBC members via their website.

Environment Agency updated land contamination guidance

The Environment Agency (EA) has published an update to the Model procedures for the management of land contamination (CLR11).

The updated online guidance is called: Land contamination: risk management (LCRM).

The EA is asking for feedback on the technical content and structure by 5 December 2019.

The current guidance, CLR11 was introduced in 2004 and has never been updated.

The scope, purpose and the framework of LCRM remains the same as the old CLR11 . The reformed content:

  • represents up-to-date government guidance on land contamination risk management
  • is intended to be accessible for people with disabilities – for example, be usable with assistive technology like screen readers
  • is intended to be navigable, concise, clear and understandable to all
  • is web-based, easier to manage, maintain and keep up to date
  • is now more user focussed, shorter and easier to understand
  • is clear on what you have to do and where to find out more
  • is aimed at people that might be doing this for the first time as well as experienced professionals
  • is available online

The technical language, terminology and content has been updated, explained and retained where necessary.  Repetition and general background information has been removed so that the EA can meet GOV.UK publishing requirements.

Use of Potentially Contaminated Residential Land, Gardens and Allotments

Public Health England have produced guidance on managing risk on potentially contaminated residential land. This document is intended for local authorities to be used for the management of contaminated land issues, however it includes common sense advice of use to a home owner or allotment user who may have concerns about the possibility of above normal levels of contaminants in soil.

It gives public health advice on how to reduce exposure to chemical based soil contaminants.

Cost Effective Vapour & Land Gas Monitoring in Confined Spaces

Do you need to undertake vapour or land gas monitoring in a confined space or need to keep disruption to a minimum then we may have the answer. We are now able to undertake land gas and vapour monitoring using Vapor PinsTM.

The system is relatively quick and easy to install and is a very cost effective method of vapour and land gas monitoring. In difficult to access basements it may be the only practicable option, it could literally be installed in a broom cupboard.

The system is installed in a 16mm diameter hole drilled through a ground or basement level slab and can be recessed to be flush with the floor with a protective cover so that the area can continue to be used. Installation of three monitoring points can usually be completed in a matter of hours.

Watch our installation video.

PFAS Concerns in Australia

In Australia a joint parliamentary committee has been investigating contamination from toxic firefighting chemicals which leached off defence bases and into soil and waterways. A Guardian article states that they have produced a report recommending the government “assist property owners and businesses in affected areas for demonstrated, quantifiable financial losses associated with PFAS contamination that has emanated from defence bases”.

states that they have produced a report recommending the government “assist property owners and businesses in affected areas for demonstrated, quantifiable financial losses associated with PFAS contamination that has emanated from defence bases”.

Is this something we should addressing in the UK?

Soil Guideline Value (SGV) for mercury withdrawn

The Environment Agency (EA) has withdrawn the Soil Guideline Value (SGV) for mercury and the associated supporting reports.  This follows discussions with Public Health England (PHE) about a revised opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). EFSA recommended an oral TDI for both these forms of mercury that are lower than the oral HCV used in the derivation of the SGV.

The EA advised “We are withdrawing our reports in light of this expert opinion.  We will not be updating them as the Environment Agency no longer undertakes work to derive new SGV or TOX reports, but we will continue to recommend that relevant public health bodies are consulted where industry has published or is developing alternative guideline criteria for mercury which would also include elemental mercury.”

The SGV Report, the TOX Report, and the Supporting Information Document for Mercury will remain available for historical reference on the Government and Environment Agency archives and on the CL:AIRE WALL

In 2012, EFSA published their scientific opinion on the public health risk from the presence of inorganic mercury and methylmercury in food.  The full report is available here:


Contaminated Land Identified as Environmental Factor Most Likely to Cause Upset to a Housing Development

A recent survey by Development+Infrastructure identified contaminated land as the environmental factor most likely to cause upset to a housing development, followed by flood risk, more details here.

Once again it shows that the importance of taking advice at the earliest stage cannot be over stated. As my grandmother used to say, forewarned is forearmed.

Builders Shun Brownfield Sites to Dig up Green Belt – The Times 12 December 2017

An article in The Times declares that research by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) shows that sites with the capacity for nearly 200,000 homes are missing from the official Brownfield Registers. With limited resources local authorities tend to concentrate on the larger sites, meaning that this vital resource of smaller sites is overlooked.

We have extensive experience of providing advice on small sites and are on the steering group for the CIRIA small brownfield sites report, which is due to be published shortly with advice on developing small brownfield sites.

We provide comprehensive support to guide clients through the process of obtaining discharge of contaminated land planning conditions, if you are considering buying or developing a small brownfield site do not hesitate to call 020 8291 1354 or

CIRIA launch Contaminated Land Guidance Tool


We are proud sponsors of this resource, which is designed to be the place the industry goes to find directions to the current documents and guidance.

The CIRIA website states: “Over the last two decades CIRIA, as well as publishing over 50 guides on contaminated land, has gathered information on more than 200 industry guidance documents that help practitioners and other stakeholders to assess and manage risk related to contaminated land and brownfield sites in the UK.  Following suggestions from members, information on these references has been compiled in a searchable form. ”

Have a look for yourself.

ISO 19204:2017 Soil quality – Procedure for site-specific ecological risk assessment of soil contamination (soil quality TRIAD approach)

The scope on the British Standard website states:

“This document describes in a general way the application of the soil quality TRIAD approach for the site-specific ecological risk assessment of contaminated soils. In detail, it presents in a transparent way three lines of evidence (chemistry, ecotoxicology and ecology) which together allow an efficient, ecologically robust but also practical risk assessment of contaminated soils. This procedure can also be applicable to other stress factors, such as acidification, soil compaction, salinization, loss of soil organic substance, and erosion. However, so far, no experience has been gained with these other applications. Therefore, this document focuses on soils contaminated by chemicals.”

Brownfield Registers

Councils in England and Wales are to get new tools to speed up the development of derelict and underused land for new homes, Housing and Planning Minister Gavin Barwell has advised.

Brownfield registers were piloted in 2016, when 73 local planning authorities from across the country pioneered the measures.

All local authorities in England and Wales will now have to produce and maintain up to date, publicly available registers of brownfield sites available for housing in order to help house builders to quickly identify suitable brownfield sites.

Communities will be able to highlight local derelict or underused building sites that are primed for redevelopment thereby encouraging inward investment and increase the number of new homes in the area.

‘We need to build more homes in this country so making sure that we re-use brownfield land is crucial. We want to bring life back to abandoned sites, create thousands more homes and help protect our valued countryside. These new registers will give local authorities and developers the tools to do this,’ Barwell stated.


New asbestos and soil best practice guidance from CIRIA

New guidance on soils that have the potential to contain asbestos has been published by CIRIA

It provides a practical framework to help minimise the health risks and liabilities when asbestos-containing soils (ACS) are encountered. The summary on the CIRIA website states:

“This site guide gives advice to all site workers who may come into contact with, or are required to manage, soils that have the potential to contain asbestos (eg groundworks/earthworks contractors, ground investigation contractors/supervisors, consultants, waste handlers). It provides a framework to help minimise the potential health risks and associated liabilities when asbestos-containing soils (ACS) are encountered on site. It also focuses on practical management of ACS in field conditions and builds on the guidance from Nathanail et al (2014) which sets out the risk assessment process and risk management framework for asbestos in soils.”

Contaminated Land Insurance

CLS have announced an expansion of their contaminated land insurance suite:
“Following the success of the recent collaboration of CLS and Landmark Information Group (LIG) to bring you market leading environmental insurance with Homecheck Professional, CLS are pleased to announce that we are now expanding our suite of contaminated land products to offer further cover options for both residential and commercial properties.”

The National Quality Mark Scheme for Land Contamination Management (NQMS)

The National Quality Mark Scheme for Land Contamination Management (NQMS), is set to be launched on 9 January 2017.nqms-logo

Not sure what it is and what it’s supposed to achieve, find out at the CL:AIRE website.

Will it provide reassurance and certainty for clients or just be another hurdle to leap at extra cost? Is it an attempt by the industry at self-regulation or a job creation scheme for the boys?

At the moment the answers are about as clear as they are on Brexit. There are wide variations in the standard of reports produced but is the way to address the issue? Will it just mean that responsible clients, who are already employing competent consultants pay extra, while those who think lowest cost is best regardless of all else will continue as before, quite unaware even of the scheme’s existence?

Brownfield registers pilot


Department for Communities and Local Government Secretary Greg Clark announced that 73 councils across England will pilot one of the new brownfield registers, which will provide house 3228-06 aerial view-ssbuilders with up-to-date and publicly available information on all brownfield sites available for housing locally.

The registers are designed to help housebuilders identify suitable sites quickly, speeding up the construction of new homes.

Communities may also draw attention to local sites for listing, including in some cases derelict buildings and eyesores that are primed for redevelopment and that could attract investment to the area.

Communities Secretary Greg Clark said: A key part of our ambition to build 1 million homes is to get work started on brownfield sites across the country – many of which are currently nothing more than blight on a community’s landscape. These councils will be at the forefront of these efforts to list land and encourage builders to deliver new homes for aspiring homeowners.

Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said: We want to help hard working families and first time buyers to own their home and to achieve this by building on brownfield land wherever possible to help protect our valued countryside. The register helps deliver both of these at a stroke. By getting the first councils going in piloting a register of brownfield land for housing we have the first wave of areas pushing for more homes on suitable brownfield land, including affordable housing.

The councils taking part in the brownfield pilots will inform future government policy and guidance on the operation of the brownfield registers. Registers will eventually become mandatory for all councils under proposals going through Parliament in the Housing and Planning Bill.

Other measures in the Housing and Planning Bill will enable ‘permission in principle’ to be granted for housing-led development sites listed on the new brownfield registers. This will mean developers building new homes on brownfield land will have a greater degree of certainty in relation to location, use and the amount of development.

Contaminated Land Expert Panel, first case study

The Contaminated Land Expert Panel has been set up by Defra to support Local Authorities in England and Wales in making decisions on whether land is or is not  2-3

contaminated under Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (as amended). The Panel’s work focuses on cases that are not straightforward and where there is ambiguity over whether the land is considered legally contaminated or not (i.e. which side of the Category 2 / Category 3 does the land lie).

In December 2015 they published their first case study.