Surrey Heath does not have a significant history of industrial uses, but land in the Borough may still be affected by contamination as a result of historical land use, industrial processes, waste disposal, use by the Ministry of Defence and accidental spillages. If land contamination is not dealt with adequately it can pose risks to human health, the environment and sustainable economic development.
The information below provides a starting point for residents, developers and other statutory agencies in dealing with the question of potentially contaminated land in Surrey Heath.
All local authorities have a duty to inspect their areas for contaminated land, and to deal in a satisfactory way with any contamination that is identified. This is in accordance with the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
The Act defines contaminated land as an area where significant harm is being caused or is likely to take place because of the substances in, on, or under the land, or where the pollution of controlled waters has occurred, or is likely to be caused.
All councils throughout the country are legally obliged to produce a strategy for contaminated land. The Council has recently revised its strategy developed our strategy in accordance with government guidelines, working closely with the Environment Agency.
The strategy sets out the Council's approach to our legal duties regarding contaminated land, including how we will:
- To ensure compliance with and enforcement of statute by identifying and removing unacceptable risks to human health and the environment.
- To ensure that contaminated land is made suitable for its current use.
- To ensure that the burdens faced by individuals, companies and society as a whole in complying with the regime are proportionate, manageable and compatible with the principles of sustainable development.
- To ensure that where redevelopment of sites take place in the Borough that the process controls any risk from land contamination to existing and future site users, as well as site workers.
- To address the liability issues associated with the Council's existing land holdings and avoid any new liability associated with land acquisitions.
- To ensure the open provision of information to the public, developers and other statutory agencies.
- The Council's Contaminated Land Strategy has identified, and is continuing to identify, a range of sites that may have been subject to contamination within Surrey Heath. This is not a comprehensive list but is a useful starting point for identifying sites that may potentially be contaminated.
Information on potential contamination will be required by developers and also by householders if they are buying or selling their home or carrying out any building works.
The Council is committed to openness and transparency in relation to all information and the Environment Information Regulations 2004 encourage disclosure. However there are a range of circumstances where an authority may decide not to disclose information set out in the regulations. These cover such issues as the information not being available, the request is unreasonable, information is still in preparation, the request covers internal communication or the request is covered by confidentiality because of legal, commercial or intellectual property issues.
A public register is available in respect of sites where formal notices have been issued or a formal Remediation Statement has been prepared in accordance with the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The Register currently contains no sites and it is likely that there will be relatively few situations where formal action is taken.
Information is held on the Council's geographic information system and in hard copy in relation to sites known to it that are potentially or actually contaminated.
The Environmental Health Service responds to specific written requests for information held by the service on historic land uses and investigation data for which there is no charge for providing copies of this information. In order to access the information contact the Environmental Health Service on 01276 707100 to arrange an appointment to view the information. Any information is given with a disclaimer that the information is only that available to the Council, it may not be comprehensive and the Council has no liability in respect of its provision. Residents and developers are encouraged to make more extensive enquiries.
A number of commercial companies provide a service which collates information about the land condition of a particular property and surrounding potential contaminative uses and these are often purchased as part of the land search information when properties are changing hands. They are available for the general public to purchase.
The Council is currently working to upgrade the range of available information in respect of potentially contaminated sites.
Developing Contaminated Land
Although Surrey Heath has a relatively limited history of industrial uses there are many sites within the Borough that may be potentially contaminated. Government guidance recognises land contamination as a material planning consideration and that the development phase is the most cost-effective time to deal with the problem. It is the developer's responsibility to ensure that the development is safe and suitable for its intended use and that appropriate precautions are taken to protect workers on any potentially contaminated site as well as the general public. Developers are expected to make their own inquiries to ascertain any potential for contamination, although the Council can provide some information, as above.
Planning Approvals given to sensitive developments on brownfield sites commonly have conditions attached requiring an assessment of land contamination. It is the Local Planning Authority's (LPA) duty to ensure that the developer undertakes this assessment and implements any remedial requirements in a responsible and effective manner. The Environment Agency and the Environmental Health Service will act as consultees regarding risks to controlled waters and human health respectively.
Some informal guidance has been produced to assist developers and others when developing potentially contaminated sites.
For further information contact the Planning Service on 01276 707100 or firstname.lastname@example.org