The Environmental Search: More relevant than ever

The Environmental Search: More relevant than ever


“‘Contaminated land’ is defined as any land which, by reason of substances in, on or under the land, appears to be in such a condition that either of the following apply:

-significant harm to the environment or human health is being caused, or there is a significant possibility of such harm being caused;

-significant pollution of controlled waters is being caused, or there is a significant possibility of such harm being caused.”


There is a legal obligation on all local authorities to inspect their areas in order to identify any contaminated land. In addition, the enforcement authority must serve a remediation notice on the appropriate persons requiring them to remediate the contamination. Failure to comply with a remediation notice is a criminal offence, punishable by a fine, imprisonment, or both.


The “appropriate persons” should be they who caused or knowingly permitted the contaminating substances to be present in, on or under the land. However, If no such person can be found, liability passes to the current owner or occupier of the site regardless of whether they were aware of the contamination.


A recent decision of the Court of Appeal increases the liability risks for landowners and occupiers near operational and historic council landfill sites as the City Council was not found liable for pollution created by its statutory predecessor council landfill operator.


Landfills are the most commonly used option for waste disposal in Great Britain. Under European Union law, landfills sites are generally operated as full containment facilities, however, landfills were historically mainly diluted and dispersed. Nowadays, there are thousands local authority landfill sites across Great Britain and many of these are dilute and disperse sites. You cannot therefore assume that the land you are purchasing is not contaminated merely because there is no active landfill site nearby.


Local authorities have been slow to identify contaminated land in their areas and reductions in funding have made it even harder for local authorities to do so.


If the property you purchase is on contaminated land, you could be forced to pay for the remediation works required to clean up the land. A Lender may also incur liability under the contaminated land regime which is why we, at Hill and Company Solicitors, conduct an Environmental Search at the outset of any residential purchase involving a mortgage.


We also strongly advise our clients to commission this search even when there is no Lender involved in the transaction as the Environmental Search can reveal several issues that a proposed purchaser should be aware of prior to acquiring a property.


For more information on Environmental Searches or for a no-obligation fixed fee quote for our conveyancing services, please contact us on 0161 928 3201 or at client.services@hillandcompany.co.uk

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