It is estimated that up to 325,000 sites in the UK may be polluted as a result of former uses and as many at 33,500 sites could require some form of clean up. There is also a risk that pollution may migrate from the original site to neighbouring land, which will then in turn require clean up.

The Environmental Protection Act states that the responsibility for cleaning up contaminated land falls in the first instance to the person who knowingly caused or allowed polluting substances onto or under the land.

Unfortunately, it is not always clear when pollution occurred or they may be numerous parties who all could bear responsibility. Alternatively, if the responsible party can be identified, they may not be able to be traced or may not exist anymore.

If no such party can be found responsible for knowingly causing or allowing the land to become polluted, the responsibility for the clean up passes onto the current owner or occupier of the land.

It is therefore imperative that all necessary steps are carried out before completion of the purchase of any property in order to identify and reduce such risks. Remediation of land can have significant financial implications and can make it difficult to re-mortgage or sell the land in the future. Contaminated land can also cause long lasting and serious health issues.

An Environmental Search, carried out prior to purchase, should reveal if the land in question is contaminated and if this is the case, your legal advisor should discuss with you the risks, implications and, if appropriate, the best way to move forward.

If you are considering purchasing a property with land or are in a dispute over the clean up of polluted land, speak to Farleys’ experienced solicitors on 0845 287 0939 or, alternatively, you can contact us by email.