Contaminated Land Regime - latest news
Pamela Castle reviews progress
We have been in contact with an official from the
Contaminated Land Unit at the Department of Transport, Environment
and the Regions (DTER) to obtain the latest information on the
progress towards the new contam-inated land regime. Despite having
been enacted as part of the Environment Act 1995 the contaminated
land regime is yet to come into force and has been the subject of
considerable criticism. Rumours abound as to whether the provisions
and the draft statutory guidance will be amended and even as to
whether the contaminated land regime will be brought into force at
all. Below are a number of indications given by the DTER as to the
direction in which this issue may be heading.
- The DTER had been hoping to put out a formal statement on the
contaminated land regime prior to last year's summer recess. We now
understand that they are still intending to issue a statement in
the next few weeks.
- There have been unofficial rumours that the Government is
considering a return to the section 143 Environmental Protection
Act 1990 type register system which was never brought into force.
The representative from the DTER was, however, able to scotch these
- The unofficial position appears to be that the legislation and
the general principles set out in the draft statutory guidance are
likely to remain unamended. The indications are, however, that the
draft statutory guidance will be heavily amended particularly in
chapter 4 which contains the exclusion tests. This results from the
view that the drafting in chapter 4 is far too complicated.
- The general aim is to improve the workability of the
contaminated land regime. The Parliamentary Environmental Select
Committee reviewed the contaminated land regime earlier this year
and made a number of recommendations which the DTER are taking into
- One particular point of importance being addressed is the
overlap between the contaminated land regime and sections 161 A-D
of the Water Resources Act 1991. It is important that the dividing
line of these two systems is clarified as this will have
considerable importance in practice.
- One of the major criticisms of the contaminated land regime is
the pressure it will put on local authority funds. The DTER was
able to indicate that the new Labour Government is likely to be
much more accommodating to local authorities than the previous
government in this regard.
- For land to constitute contaminated land it is a requirement
that the contaminating substances cause significant harm or there
is a significant possibility that such harm will be caused. The
definition of "significant" as set out in the draft statutory
guidance is being reviewed.
- An interesting point which was made is that the Government will
consider the contaminated land regime a success if no or few
remediation notices are served under the regime. It is considered
more desirable that contaminated land be dealt with by other
existing regimes and that the contaminated land regime should exist
as a safety net.
- Officially the DTER are not working to any set timescale. Much
will depend upon the level of amendments to the draft statutory
guidance and draft regulations and therefore whether another round
of consultation is considered necessary. It is possible that if the
amendments are insufficient to require further consultation the
contaminated land regime could be brought into force in early
As a final note of assurance the DTER indicated
that the Government and, in particular, Michael Meacher are taking
an active interest in this issue.