Planning and Land Contamination

Planning applications for the redevelopment of sites potentially affected by contamination need to be accompanied by a preliminary risk assessment report, which will include a desk study with information on the historical uses of the site and its environmental setting.

Risk Identification

In the event of potential pollutant linkages being identified, a suitable quantitative risk assessment may be needed. The risk assessment approach should reflect the current UK technical framework as outlined in the Model Procedures for the Management of Land Contamination. Further guidance on risk assessment can be found on the Contaminated Land page.

If unacceptable risks are identified, a remediation strategy may be required. The remediation actions need to be undertaken to a standard that enables safe development and end-use of the site such that it would not meet the statutory definition of contaminated land under Part III of the Waste and Contaminated Land Order (Northern Ireland) 1997.

It remains the responsibility of the developer to undertake and demonstrate that the works have been effective in managing all risks.

Planning Officers will consult on planning applications where there is a potential contamination issue. The Environmental Health Department at the District Council will address issues relevant to human health whereas we will consider environmental aspects such as impacts to surface and groundwater.

Sites affected by contamination can be redeveloped successfully for a wide range of end uses. Gathering the appropriate information and understanding thoroughly the risks for the site ensures that they can be managed effectively within the overall development scheme.

The NI Regional Development Strategy to 2035 'Building a Better Future' has a target of building 60% of new homes within the existing urban footprint. This supports the development of previously used or so called ‘brownfield’ sites. Previous activities on such sites may have resulted in soil and groundwater contamination and it is therefore imperative that any risks associated with contamination are considered as part of the planning and redevelopment process to ensure the development site will be 'suitable for use.'

Land Use Database

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency's (NIEA) Land and Resource Management Unit holds a database of sites where, based on their historic land-use, there is potential for contamination to be present. Such land-uses include former petrol stations, chemical manufacturing or gas works sites.

The database was developed in 1997 and contains details on approximately 12,000 sites within Northern Ireland. However, the information has not been fully validated and details are provided on a 'without prejudice' basis. A listing on the database does not necessarily mean that the site is affected by contamination. If the previous land-use indicates the potential for contamination, NIEA would recommend an initial desk study, supported by an appropriate risk assessment and site investigation if required to determine if unacceptable risks to health or the environment are present.

Further information on the industrial processes and materials associated with the site classifications that may cause the land to be affected by contamination are available in the relevant Department of Environment (DOE) Industrial Profiles. Copies can be downloaded from the Contaminated Land Page (link above).

A programme of work is planned to update the information currently held within this database with a longer-term view of transferring this data to a GIS based system.

The database can be consulted with regard to previous land-use for a particular site and the surrounding area. This is a free service and can be accessed by sending the details of your request to the address below. It will help your search if you are able to provide a grid reference or post code and a map. Searches are normally a 250m radius around a given point.

Please send your request to:

Land Quality
Land and Resource Management
Klondyke Buildling
Cromac Avenue
Gasworks Business Park
Lower Ormeau Road
Belfast
BT7 2JA

For further details, please see the attached link.

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