Managing the Risks from Contamination: A Developer’s Guide

In our latest guest blog, Robert Allen, Environmental Consultant of Sequoia Environmental discusses assessment and remediation of contaminated sites.

As an environmental consultant specialising in assessment and remediation of contaminated land, I am regularly contacted by developers seeking to fulfill statutory and warranty provider’s requirements for residential development.  In this article, I provide a brief summary of a developer’s responsibilities.

Site Acquisition

Comprehensive due diligence is important at the site acquisition stage to determine if a site is likely to have been affected by contamination. Assessment and remediation of contaminated land need not be prohibitive to development, provided these works can be factored into the programme. Where contamination is suspected or identified, it can be useful to engage with relevant regulatory parties (including the Local Authority, Environment Agency, Building Control and Warranty provider) at the earliest opportunity to ensure that the proposed level of assessment will meet their requirements.  You can find further information on managing liability as part of brownfield site acquisition in this article.

Responsibilities

In accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) it is the responsibility of the developer to identify land affected by contamination and ensure that an appropriate level of assessment (including remediation if necessary) is carried out.  For a new development, this is usually enforced through the planning regime. However, in some cases, there may be additional work required to meet the requirements of the new homes warranty provider.  Information relating to the LABC Warranty’s requirements for contamination assessment is set out in Chapter 4 of their Technical Manual.

The Environmental Assessment Process

The first stage of any Environmental Assessment should be a Phase I Desk Study, the purpose of which is to characterise the site’s environmental setting and to identify sources of contamination which might pose a risk to future site users or the surrounding environment.  This recent article provides some further information on the Desk Study process, and also includes consideration of geotechnical hazards.

If the Desk Study identifies potential risks to future site users or the surrounding environment then further Site Investigation, Risk Assessment or Remediation may be required.  This process is summarised in the Sequoia Environmental infographic here

It is important to remember that a ‘phased’ approach to environmental assessment is encouraged. This essentially means that if (at any stage in the above process) it can be demonstrated that there is no significant risk to human health or the surrounding environment, then the work can be finalised, and submitted to the relevant regulatory authorities for approval.

Validation

Upon finalisation of any new development, it is prudent to confirm if the statutory bodies and warranty provider has any requirements for validation prior to sign-off.  This might involve the collection of samples from the domestic garden areas to confirm that any imported material is suitable for use or submission of documentation demonstrating that all waste materials have been removed from the site appropriately.

In conclusion, managing the risks from contamination can be a relatively straightforward process, providing that risks are identified at an early stage in the project and a phased approach is adopted for any necessary investigation, risk assessment or remediation.