Land can be affected by contamination from past uses such as industry, waste disposal or mining.

Contaminated land is generally described as land polluted by:

  • heavy metals
  • oils and tars
  • chemical substances and preparations
  • gases

Some substances have the potential to harm people, animals, buildings, or ecological systems or cause the pollution of water if present at high enough levels,

Land will only be formally determined as contaminated land under Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 if contamination poses a significant risk.

Where there is contamination that could pose a risk to a proposed new use of land the developer will be required to clean up the land. For example, if houses will be built on the land.

Find out if land is potentially contaminated

To find out whether a piece of land might be potentially contaminated you can request an environmental search.

What an environmental search is

Searches are designed to identify sites within an area that have had past uses which may have led to contamination in, on or under the ground.

We can also identify if there are any records of potentially contaminated land nearby, provide information on private water supplies and provide information on sites holding environmental permits.

Land that is not included on our records

We can only provide information for sites we hold records on.

Our environmental searches include a review of whether the site is included in our contaminated land inspection strategy. This has identified areas of land that are potentially contaminated.

We cannot guarantee that other areas of land are free from contamination. To do that you need to appoint a specialist environmental consultant to carry out ground investigations.

How to request a search

To request an environmental search email

Your request must:

  • be accompanied by a local map clearly marking the boundary of the land
  • be reasonable and specific (example question, is the council aware of any land within 250 metres of the site which has been used for waste disposal to landfill?)

What happens next

We send you:   

  • a letter listing the records we have of potentially contaminated land sites within 250 metres of the subject site and saying whether the site itself is potentially contaminated
  • a layout including extracts from historic maps showing any potentially contaminated land where appropriate and any other relevant information about the land

We provide information only. If you need help in interpreting the information you should seek help from a specialist environmental consultant.


You can email for our current fees.

Most searches can be completed within an hour.

Our inspection strategy

We are required to publish our strategy on how we deal with contaminated land.

Read our latest contaminated land inspection strategy.

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