In order to minimise development pressures on greenfield sites, the preference nowadays is to build on land with the least environmental or amenity value - in general, land that has been developed previously. For the protection of future users, we need to know if that land may be contaminated and, if so, to clean it up. This is where environmental health practitioners come in.
EHPs are trained in the highly technical processes of the detection and assessment of contamination. Following detailed examination including analysis of representative soil samples, if they believe the land is contaminated to an extent that there may be an unacceptable risk to health they will work with owners, developers, architects and engineers to find ways of remediating and reclaiming it so that it can be safely used again.
Most contaminated sites come to EHPs’ attention by way of the planning process whereby ‘clean-up’ conditions can be applied to development consents.If necessary though, EHPs can use enforcement powers to ensure that land is returned to a state fit for use.
The CIEH has played a part in developing several key pieces of guidance, some listed under Publications.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Environment Agency have published a number of procedural and technical guidance notes, both on the assessment of contaminated land and on ways of cleaning it up and restoring it. Public Health England, Public Health Wales and the Department of Communities and Local Goverment also provide information.