Extent of former industrial land use potentially twice as much as official figures suggest

UK could be facing a much bigger problem in dealing with unacknowledged contaminated land

Former industrial land across England and Wales could be twice as much as official figures suggest, research from Groundsure reveals. Groundsure used historical mapping to determine the land in England and Wales that was formerly covered by a wide range of industrial sites – areas sometimes affected by heavy metals, chemicals and gases.

The research found these sites occupy approximately 4% of land (619,000ha) in England and Wales – significantly more than previous Environment Agency figures that suggest around 2% (300,000ha). These areas of former industrial land use have the potential for associated contamination issues. Currently, just 0.007% (1,066ha) of England & Wales is officially designated as contaminated land, but this research suggests that there is more to be found.

The presence of contamination does not mean that there is an immediate legal liability for remediation, but it can result in significant costs for homeowners in the long term. In cases where the original polluter is unknown, liability can fall to the homeowners – with costly consequences. One Groundsure case study reported homeowners in Chelmsford facing investigation and remediation costs of £10,000, after investigators found levels of heavy metals and cyanide in their property. Their home was built on a former gravel extraction site.

Dan Montagnani, Managing Director at Groundsure said: “Contaminated land is a potential huge cost for UK homeowners. You can be sure that the first thing on the resident’s minds would be ‘why didn’t anyone tell me about this when we bought the property?’

“If contaminated land is found to be the issue, a solicitor who advised against obtaining an environmental report could be found negligent for not following best practice. So the investment in an environmental report can not only save a client tens of thousands of pounds, but also someone’s professional reputation.”

Groundsure produces a range of environmental data reports for solicitors, homebuyers, businesses, consultants, surveyors and lenders to make informed property-transaction decisions. For more information visit www.groundsure.com

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