Contamination Concerns and Addressing Development Risk

An observant walker can readily pick out sites of historical significance anywhere in the UK; just keep an eye out for the distinct blue plaques and the previously hidden history comes to life.
However, determining the risk of the UK’s industrial legacy is a much harder task, more so when the historic site itself has long been developed. So how can we be certain of risks to health when we don’t have a blue plaque for past land use?

Ordnance Survey map extract, hand-drawn Landmark analysis highlighting sources of potential contamination and ground instability.

In 1998 Landmark Information Group completed the creation of a unique database of Historical Land Use and Potentially Contaminative Industries, using guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Environment Act 1995.
The database was created under a Joint Venture between Landmark and Ordnance Survey (OS).The resultant data analysis and digital dataset has proved essential for investigations into the existence of historically contaminated land and previously in-filled land.
A recent news story has highlighted the investigation of potentially contaminated land in Paddock Wood, Kent. While local residents and the governing local authority await the results of the investigation, the media story is focused on the potential effect of the historical contaminants. How were residents to know about the potential for contamination?
Landmark Information Group has been able to report and detail the potential contamination at the site since the original mapping analysis was completed in 1998. Historical mapping displays the site of the works as it appeared on OS mapping:
And the Landmark data, in its digital form, highlights the extent of the former works with contemporary mapping included.

In the example above, the area is clearly indicated as being affected by past land use, and historic map analysis of this type would have identified the source of potential contamination many years ago.

The case in Kent is not unique, but the problem can be easily addressed at the very outset. Such historical mapping can not only identify potential sources of risk, but can also determine if remediation measures are necessary prior to development.
Any site that is determined to be contaminated by the Local Authority is therefore put on their register and it’s worth remarking that Landmark also collates and reports local authority contaminated land registers, with over 1000 features available. However, often it will simply be a case of reassuring residents that any risk posed from historical industrial use is either negligible, or that appropriate measures were put in place at the very start of the development process. Evidence of an in-depth site survey is often all that is needed.
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