United Kingdom:-  Management / administration

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: Management of contaminated land and water


As with all EU Member States, environmental regulation in the UK comes both from EU Directives that subsequently become enacted into UK law and as a result of National rather than EU Legislation (most notably the Contaminated Land Regulations 2000).

Central Government sets the legislation (i.e. the Law) for the UK that is then enacted by the publishing of Regulations. The Regulations specify the appropriate public body to be the day-to-day lead regulator for that legislation.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department

Department of the Environment, Northern Ireland

Welsh Assembly Department for Environment, Planning and Countryside

There are different regulators depending upon the country & the Legislation & this is explained in the relevant part of this section of EUGRIS.

In the UK it is the Governments position that policies for environmental risk management are written on the basis of sound science taking into account the requirements for sustainable development. The over-arching risk management structure for the UK is contained within the document "Guidelines for Environmental Risk Assessment and Management" known as "Greenleaves II" which states:

"In recent years, there has been a shift from reactive measures to protect the environment to more proactive approaches aimed at preventing or minimising (rather than remediating) environmental damage and loss. This change in emphasis has been reflected in the use of risk assessment at the outset as part of the package of tools for making decisions about environmental management, particularly in the context of sustainable development. This document encourages the use of formal risk assessments as part of a proactive approach to environmental protection. While such an approach should be the norm, risk assessments may sometimes usefully be applied retrospectively if previously unidentified risks come to light. Environmental surveillance and monitoring to collect information over a long period of time can help to detect previously unidentified risks as well as provide a basis for forecasting future impacts."

Land Affected by Contamination

In the UK the term "Contaminated Land" has been given a specific legal definition under tPart IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Therefore, the term "land that is affected by contamination" is often used to refer to contaminated land in the wider context which is not included in the narrower Part IIA definition.

As well as acting to prevent new contamination, as detailed in Greenleaves II above, the UK also has to deal with a substantial legacy of land which is already contaminated, for example by past industrial, mining and waste disposal activities. It is not known, in detail, how much land is contaminated. This can be found out only through wide-ranging and detailed site investigation and risk assessment. The answer will be critically dependent on the definition used to establish what land counts as being "contaminated".


The Department for the Environment, Farming & Rural Affairs (Defra) & the Environment Agency for England & Wales have recently published the Model Procedures for the Management of Land Contamination (2004) (Model Procedures) which provide the framework for risk management in the UK. This document translates the risk management structure of Greenleaves II into a document specifically designed for Land Contamination. This document is applicable to all regulatory regimes that cover Land Contamination as listed below (however some elements of the Model Procedures regarding risk assessment are not relevant to the protection of land under the PPC regime). The Model Procedures also adhere to the UK Governments' policies on land contamination.


The Figure above shows the Risk Management Structure of the Model Procedures.


Contaminated Land

Contaminated Land (England) Regulations 2000

Contaminated Land (Scotland) Regulations 2000

Contaminated Land (Wales) Regulations 2001


Lead Regulators: Local Authorities

Ancillary Regulators:

England & Wales Environment Agency

Scotland SEPA

Northern Ireland Northern Ireland Environment and Heritage Service (NIEHS)


Development Control


Town & Country Planning Act 1990

Planning Policy Statement 23 (PPS23), Annex 2, contains guidance on the assessment and management of land contamination through the planning and development control process. The presence or potential presence of land affected by contamination is and will remain a material planning consideration.


The Planning Department of the Welsh Assembly Government has published Planning Policy Wales. Chapter 13 is titled ‘land reclamation, unstable land and contaminated land’ and contains guidance on development plans and individual planning considerations sites affected by land contamination. The Policy is supported by 20 topic based Technical Advice Notes (TANS). ‘Planning Policy Wales’, the TANs and the circulars, may be material to decisions on individual planning applications and will be taken into account by the Welsh Assembly Government and Planning Inspectors in the determination of called-in planning applications and appeals.


Town & Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997

Scotland has its own PAN (Planning Advice Note) 33 - Contaminated Land.

The objectives of this PAN are to provide advice on :

Northern Ireland


Pollution Prevention & Control Act 1999

The Pollution Prevention and Control (England and Wales) Regulations 2000

The Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulations 2000

The Environment (Northern Ireland) Order 2002

Lead Regulators England & Wales Environment Agency

(Part A Processes) Scotland SEPA

Northern Ireland NIEHS

Lead Regulators Local Authorities

(Part B Processes)


Water Management

The management of water resources & quality in the UK is governed by a number of pieces of legislation. These are:

Water Resources Act (1991)

Groundwater Regulations (1998)

Environmental Protection Act (1990)

Environment Act (1995)

Scotland uses the Control of Pollution Act 1974 as main legislation for pollution of controlled waters, issuing discharge consents etc.

For the water environment this is the Environment Agency for England & Wales, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) & the Northern Ireland Environment and Heritage Service. These bodies are responsible for ensuring compliance with EU Directives on water quality through the permitting of relevant activities and by commenting on new development through the Town & Country Planning Act.



Bob Barnes
Environment Agency, United Kingdom

Who does what?