Impact on land

Northern Ireland's historic and present day activities have many impacts and pressures on the land. There is therefore a range of policy and legislative measures to protect and manage this resource.

Land contamination and waste

Remediation of contaminated materials may require consideration of whether those materials meet the definition of waste and if so, whether they should be classified as hazardous waste. Some further information on relevant waste legislation can be found in our website. Typically, remediation treatments and technologies employed for the treatment of contaminated soils and waters will be regulated by a number of permits and authorisations including mobile treatment licence and/or discharge consent.

Planning and Land Contamination

The town and country planning system controls the development and use of the land in the public interest. The Planning Service is an executive agency within the Department of Environment (DOE) and is responsible for administering the Department's responsibilities as set out in the Planning (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 .

The Northern Ireland Regional development strategy to 2025 'Shaping our Future' has a target of 60% of new homes within the existing urban footprint. This supports the redevelopment of previously used or so called brownfield sites, some of which may be affected by contamination.

Contaminated Land

Northern Ireland, like other parts of the UK, has a legacy of land affected by contamination, often arising from its past industrial use (e.g. shipbuilding, textiles, petrol stations, etc.) but also from natural or diffuse sources. It is not known how much land is contaminated, although DOE records estimate that there are over 11,000 sites across Northern Ireland that have had some form of previous industrial use. Dealing with this legacy will make a significant contribution in the sustainable development and use of our land resource.

The Contaminated Land regime which is set out in Part 3 of the Waste Management and Contaminated Land Order (Northern Ireland ) 1997, has been enacted but is not yet in force. This regime is similar to Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 in England, Scotland and Wales.


Soil is a non-renewable resource that performs many functions essential for human life, the environment and its ecosystems. These functions include; storing, filtering and transforming nutrients and water, biomass production, hosting the biodiversity pool, providing raw materials and acting as a carbon sink.

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