United Kingdom:-  Policy and regulatory

Glossary Entry
The United Kingdom (UK) is a Constitutional Monarchy made up of four semi-autonomous countries: 
England, Northern Ireland, Scotland & Wales. The latter three having devolved authorities responsible
for some environmental regulation and policy making relevant to soil and water. The UK covers an area
of 242,500 square kilometres & has a population of 59 million, similar to that of France and Italy.
United Kingdom Overview: Policy


In the UK over-arching Environmental Policy is set by central government. The first priority for the government's policy on land contamination is to prevent the creation of new contamination through efficient regulation of industrial and waste disposal activities.


1       Land Contamination Policy

1.1       Introduction

The UK Government's objectives with respect to contaminated land are:

(a) to identify and remove unacceptable risks to human health and the environment;

(b) to seek to bring damaged land back into beneficial use; and

(c) to seek to ensure that the cost burdens faced by individuals, companies and society as a whole are proportionate, manageable and economically sustainable.

These three objectives underlie the "suitable for use" approach to the remediation of contaminated land, which the UK Government considers is the most appropriate approach to achieving sustainable development in this field.

The "suitable for use" approach focuses on the risks caused by land contamination. The approach recognises that the risks presented by any given level of contamination will vary greatly according to the use of the land and a wide range of other factors, such as the underlying geology of the site. Risks therefore need to be assessed on a site-by-site basis.

The "suitable for use" approach then consists of three elements:

(a) Ensuring that land is suitable for its current use - in other words, identifying any land where contamination is causing unacceptable risks to human health and the environment, assessed on the basis of the current use and circumstances of the land, and returning such land to a condition where such risks no longer arise ("remediating" the land); the contaminated land regime (Part IIA) provides general machinery to achieve this;

(b) Ensuring that land is made suitable for any new use, as planning permission is given for that new use - in other words, assessing the potential risks from contamination, on the basis of the proposed future use and circumstances, before official permission is given for the development and, where necessary to avoid unacceptable risks to human health and the environment, remediating the land before the new use commences; this is the role of the town and country planning and building control regimes; and

 (c) Limiting requirements for remediation to the work necessary to prevent unacceptable risks to human health or the environment in relation to the current use or future use of the land for which planning permission is being sought - in other words, recognising that the risks from contaminated land can be satisfactorily assessed only in the context of specific uses of the land (whether current or proposed), and that any attempt to guess what might be needed at some time in the future for other uses is likely to result either in premature work (thereby risking distorting social, economic and environmental priorities) or in unnecessary work (thereby wasting resources).

Most remediation of land contamination in the UK takes place when a site is redeveloped for a new use. Conditions requiring remediation are normally attached to the planning consent. Where no redevelopment is proposed a remediation notice can be served under the contaminated land regime introduced under Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Government policy is to encourage voluntary remediation of contamination through site redevelopment wherever possible rather than regulation under the contaminated land regime.


1.2       England and Wales

The document DETR Circular 02/2000 Contaminated Land: Implementation of Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 contains details on the Governments Policy with respect to the regulation of land contamination and covers redevelopment, waste management licensing and PPC permitting issues as they relate to land contamination.

The Environment Agency for England and Wales publishes policies agreed with Defra and the Welsh Assembly Government (their Government Sponsoring Bodies) on land contamination and the Contaminated Land Regulations. Those available on their web site cover:

·        Voluntary Policy (Acrobat, 99KB, 1 minute)
Environment Agency policy on the provision of advice and involvement with voluntary remediation of historically contaminated sites.

·        MCERTS Policy for the Chemical Testing of Soil (Acrobat, 103KB, 50secs)
Agency policy statement on the qualification requirements for chemical test data on contaminated soils re: the MCERTS Performance Standard.

·        DQRA Land contamination policy (Acrobat, 103KB, 50 seconds)
Details on the Agency's preferred approach to the assessment of chronic risks to human health from contaminated soils.

Environment Agency policies for Part IIA of the Envionmental Protection Act 1990.

·        Part IIA - Overall Framework (Acrobat, 104KB, 2 minutes)

·        Part IIA - Supporting Guidance (Acrobat, 98KB, 2 minutes)

·        Part IIA - Local Authority Inspection Strategies (Acrobat, 96KB, 2 minutes)

·        Part IIA - Risk Assessment Policy (Acrobat, 109KB, 2 minutes)

·        Part IIA - Risk Management Measures (Acrobat, 103KB, 2 minutes)

·        Chemical Test Data - Qualification Requirements


Other Policies will be published on an up-dated Land Quality section of the Environment Agency's web site later this summer and this page will be up-dated with further information and links at that time (see what's new).


1.3       Scotland

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) have produced a contaminated land web site at http://www.sepa.org.uk/contaminated-land/index.htm

SEPA have published a policy for the protection of land which can be found at http://www.sepa.org.uk/policies/index.htm

The Scottish Executive have published a Planning Advice Note (PAN 33) which can be found at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/about/Planning/pan_33_contamlanddev.aspx


1.4       Northern Ireland

At present Northern Ireland's Department of the Environment are developing policies aimed at controlling and regulating Contaminated Land. There is a Policy of encouraging remediation through the siting of waste management facilities on areas affected by contamination (PPS 11).


2       Land Contamination Regulation

2.1       Introduction

Whilst there are regulatory differences between the four different countries making up the UK, Land Contamination is dealt with through the five following areas:

  1. Specific Act of Parliament to investigate and remedy harm caused by contaminated Land.
  2. Through conditions placed upon Planning Permissions for the redevelopment of land.
  3. Acts of Parliament and Regulations for the control of waste.
  4. Acts of Parliament and Regulations enacting the EU IPPC Directive.
  5. Acts of Parliament and Regulations for the control and protection of the water environment.


2.2       England and Wales

HOW: Land contamination in England and Wales is identified and dealt with through the following Acts / Regulations:

  1. The Contaminated Land Regulations (2000) enabling Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act (1990)
  2. The Town and Country Planning Act (1991)
  3. The Waste Management Licensing Regulations (1994)
  4. The Pollution Prevention and Control (England and Wales) Regulations (2000)
  5. The Water Resources Act (1991)

WHO: The lead Regulators for land contamination in England and Wales are the Local Authorities (LA's) both through (a) and through (b) as Planning Authorities. There are over 600 Local Authorities in England and Wales.

The Environment Agency for England and Wales regulate "Special Sites" as defined in the Contaminated Land Regulations (2000) and assist LA's by providing advice and undertaking research. They are also the lead regulators for (c), (d) and (e).


2.3       Scotland

HOW: Land Contamination in Scotland is identified and dealt with through the following Acts / Regulations:

The Contaminated Land (Scotland) Regulations: http://www.hmso.gov.uk/legislation/scotland/ssi2000/20000178.htm

Advice on land contamination issues with respect to Town and Country Planning Act (Scotland) 1997 can be found at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/about/Planning/pan_33_contamlanddev.aspx

Waste Management Licensing (Scotland) Regulations

The Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulations

Water Resources Act

WHO: LA's are again the lead regulators for (a) and (b). The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) regulate "Special Sites" as defined in the Contaminated Land Regulations (2000) and assist LA's by providing advice and undertaking research. They are also the lead regulators for (c), (d) and (e).

The Statutory Guidance for Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 can be found at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/library3/environment/clc-00.asp


2.4       Northern Ireland

HOW: Land Contamination in Northern Ireland will be regulated through Part III of the Waste and Contaminated Land (Northern Ireland) Order 1997. Regulations have been published but as of July 2004 statutory guidance has yet to be developed and published. As such the regulations have yet to be enacted.

WHO: The Waste Management and Contaminated Land Unit (WMCL) of the Environment and Heritage Service (an Agency within the Department of Environment)


3       Groundwater Policy




3.1       England and Wales


The Environment Agency for England and Wales are currently drafting their groundwater strategy. This will replace the Policy and Practice for the Protection of Groundwater and takes into account the needs of the Water Framework Directive and recent changes to Planning Law (see groundwater planning further description).


3.2       Scotland

SEPA have produced a new 'Groundwater Protection Policy' which aims to provide a sustainable future for Scotland's groundwater resources by protecting legitimate uses of groundwater and providing a common SEPA framework to:

·        Protect groundwater quality by minimising the risks posed by point and diffuse sources of pollution;

·        Maintain the groundwater resource by influencing the design of abstractions and developments, which could affect groundwater quantity.

The new version of the Policy comprises of an overarching section, which describes the general principles of groundwater protection and states the overall Policy objectives, supported by subject-specific sections that outline the mechanisms to achieve the objectives. Subject specific sections should be read in conjunction with the overarching Policy but can be read in isolation from the other supporting sections


Scotland: http://www.sepa.org.uk/groundwater/index.htm

The SEPA website also contains details of policy and guidance with respect to the following issues

Groundwater & Planning

Discharges to Groundwater

Groundwater and Contaminated Land

Groundwater Abstractions

Groundwater and Chemical Storage

Groundwater and Agriculture

Groundwater and Engineering

Groundwater and Waste

Groundwater and Cemeteries


3.3       Northern Ireland:

Environment and Heritage Service (EHS) policy in the field of water quality is:

"To maintain or improve quality in surface waters and waters in underground strata as required by national policy, EC Directives and international agreements, and to generally manage river, estuarine, and coastal waters to be at least "Good" under the adopted classification schemes with no downward movement between classes."


The EHS have published their Policy and Practice for the Protection of Groundwater.



4       Groundwater Regulation

4.3       Northern Ireland

The following pieces of legislation are relevant to Groundwater Protection in Northern Ireland



Water Act (Northern Ireland) 1972

Powers in relation to water conservation and cleanliness; promotion of water management programmes; powers to make regulations controlling water abstractions and powers to control discharges to surface and groundwaters

Water (Northern Ireland) Order 1999

When fully implemented replaces, with revisions, the Water Act (NI) 1972

Waste and Contaminated Land (Northern Ireland) Order 1997

Powers to licence waste treatment and disposal operations. Specific powers on contaminated land

Industrial Pollution Control (Northern Ireland) Order 1997

Powers to grant authorisations for prescribed processes and substances

The Surface Waters (Dangerous Substances) (Classification) Regulations (NI) 1998

Implements Dangerous Substances Directive (76/464/EEC)

The Sludge (Use in Agriculture) Regulations (NI) 1990

Powers to control the disposal of sludges to land.

The Urban Waste Water Treatment Regulations (NI) 1995

Implements the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (91/271/EEC)

The Groundwater Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1998

Implements the Groundwater Directive (80/68/EEC0. Controls the discharge of list I and list II substances to groundwater

The Protection of Water Against Agricultural Nitrate Pollution (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 1997

Implements Nitrates Directive (91/676/EEC) protection of pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources

The Action Programme for Nitrate Vulnerability Zones Regulations (NI) 1999

Powers to control nitrate usage in sensitive catchments

The Water Quality Regulations (NI) 1994 The Private Water Supplies Regulations (NI) 1994

Independent audit of Drinking Water Quality for public and certain private supplies



Bob Barnes
Environment Agency, United Kingdom

Who does what?