What to expect with land contamination and buying a house

The UK Law Society published a practice note in December 2014 advising conveyancing solicitors on the need for understanding contaminated land as a potential challenge for home buyers in the UK.

Contaminated Land Part 2A

The contaminated land regime came into effect in England on 1 April 2000, and in Wales on 15 September 2001. Contaminated Land Statutory Guidance 2012 supersedes all previous statutory guidance however, the legislation remains unaltered.

Historical and present-day commercial and industrial activity can result in land becoming contaminated with substances which, if not properly dealt with, can pose a risk to public health or the environment.

Land in England and Wales has a legacy of contaminants in soil, mainly caused by industrial and domestic pollution. Some of this land can pose an unacceptable level of risk, for example former landfill or industrial sites.

What Is Required?

Land contamination may be a significant issue in a small number of transactions and there can be environmental liabilities. In all purchases, leases or mortgages the solicitor will, unless the buyer, tenant or lender client instructs otherwise, undertake a CON 29 and LLC1 search to ascertain whether the land has been designated by the local authority as contaminated.

What To Expect

These local authority searches reveal a set of answers to specific questions, they will provide information on the following:

  • contaminated land notices affecting the property;
  • entries on a register maintained under section 78R of the Environmental Protection Act 1990; and
  • any consultation with the owner or occupier of the property under section 78G(3) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 before the service of a remediation notice.

A negative response from a local authority can mean one of several things:

  • there is no contamination;
  • the site has not been inspected;
  • the level of pollution is not high enough to meet Part 2A definitions, or
  • no conclusion about the site has yet been reached, even if a site inspection has finished.

You may need to make more specific enquiries to ascertain the true nature of contamination on a site and this is where H2Ogeo can help out.

Many of the formal searches carried out at the time of purchase are arbitrary and lack interpretation. Just because the property is close to a former landfill does not mean it is at risk from contaminated land as there are many factors to consider when assessing the potential risk.

H2Ogeo Services

H2Ogeo provides site risk assessments that combine conceptual site models with real world data. Enabling interpretation and understanding of the risks as well as perception of risk for the client.

With over 14 years of industry experience H2Ogeo is well positioned to provide the advice you need

Detailed technical consultancy is provided by H2Ogeo to deliver bespoke solutions that are in keeping with the clients’ needs.

For more information on the services offered by H2Ogeo: Contact Us


This article is based on the Law Society Practice Note and the full advice can be read by clicking here.