The cost to local authorities of dealing with contaminated land has long been an issue, but this could become even more concerning in the future. Since funding through the contaminated land capital grant scheme ended last year, councils have had to look elsewhere for help dealing with contamination issues. This could have an impact on public health, as the reduction in funding will mean many councils simply stop dealing with it.
contaminated land

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Dealing with contaminated land

From 2011/12 through to 2014/15, there were 250 applications from local councils to receive money from the contaminated land grant scheme; however, the authorities received only 31% of the amount they required, which generated a gap of £21m in funding. Since the grant was abolished, councils are finding land remediation projects even more difficult to resource. This could result in councils ignoring contaminated land, as they do not have the budget to treat any that they find.

Contaminated land can have potential risks to human health, especially if the contamination gets into the water supplies. It can also be a blot on the landscape and lead to anxiety among local residents and issues with house prices.

According to figures from the Environment Agency, there could be around 300,000 hectares of land across the country where industrial activity has led to contamination. The agency is in charge of 54 specific sites where the contamination impacts on groundwater sources or where the land has been used by nuclear services or the Ministry of Defence.

Move into the private sector

As councils have a build-up of sites they need to deal with, many are hoping that the government’s push to use more brownfield land for residential building will help to reduce the burden. Private developers that want to build on these sites will first need to employ land remediation services, such as those available from The number of planning applications for brownfield sites and contaminated land has actually risen over the past year and this could take some of the pressure off local authorities, which will not have to deal with the issue themselves.

In terms of the future of how contaminated land is dealt with, this will continue to be the responsibility of councils. They should be investigating where land is contaminated and pursing those responsible wherever possible to fund the clean-up operations.