Contaminated land

Contaminated land can deprive local communities of a healthy environment and cause wider environmental damage. Northern Ireland's historic and present day activities have many impacts and pressures on the land. It is therefore crucial that all unacceptable risks are identified and that the remediation of such land enables it to be 'suitable for use'.

Contaminated Land Regime

The Contaminated Land Regime, which is set out in Part III of the Waste and Contaminated Land (Northern Ireland) Order 1997, has been enacted but is not yet in force. This regime is very similar to that provided in Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 in England and Scotland since 2000 and in Wales since 2001.

In 2019 the Department produced a report assessing the risks of not having a Contaminated Land Regime in force in Northern Ireland. A qualitative methodology was used in this assessment based on a number of site scenarios for managing land affected by contamination. A timetable for implementation of the regime in Northern Ireland has not been agreed and further updates will follow in due course.

This regime supports the 'polluter pays' principle and provides a legal framework for dealing with historic contamination. It is fully retrospective in action. It aims to provide a system for the identification and remediation of land where contamination is causing unacceptable risks to human health, the natural environment and/or property. The Local Councils will be the primary regulators for this regime with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) having defined regulatory roles and responsibilities. The initial activity once the regime is in force, will focus on the preparation of site inspection strategies which are to be completed within 12 months of the regime being in place.

Underpinning this legislative regime is the technical framework in assessing and managing risks from contaminated land, namely, the Land Contamination: Risk Management (LCRM). This process involves identifying, making decisions on, and taking appropriate action to deal with, land contamination in a way that is consistent with government policies and legislation within the United Kingdom.


The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) seeks to promote good practice in assessing and managing the risks due to land contamination and recommend application of  the UK framework as laid out in the Land Contamination : Risk Management (LCRM). The LCRM guidance is equally applicable to the development of land affected by contamination, via the planning process, via voluntary remediation actions or any measures undertaken under the forthcoming contaminated land regime.

A small selection of other guidance is available to download from this site, for full details and background visit the Environment Agency webpages or the DEFRA website.

DOE Industry Profiles

The DOE Industry profiles provide developers, local authorities and others interested in contaminated land, with information on the process, materials and wastes associated with individual industries. They also provide information on the likely presence of contamination, the effect of mobility of contaminants and guidance on potential contaminants. They are not definitive studies but they introduce some of the technical considerations that need to be borne in mind at the start of an investigation. Copies can be viewed from the CL:AIRE website.

Further information

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