The funding for the contaminated land enforcement regime ended this year on 1st April. Although a small amount of Government money will still be available for ongoing remediation projects or for ‘absolute emergency cases' until 1 April 2017, the bad news for residents living on or near to contaminated sites is that they may now be asked to foot the bill for any clean-up.
For over a decade, local authorities have been actively investigating sites for potential contamination under Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Where necessary, they have been responsible for identifying those liable and making arrangements or obtaining funding for remediation. So where will these latest changes leave them?
Up the creek without a paddle?
For local authorities, this change will have a big effect. They will have the statutory duty under the Environmental Protection Act but without the money to undertake site investigations. On new developments, they may be forced to look into alternative options such as securing remediation through planning permissions and planning obligations; for example by imposing conditions to ensure a development does not commence until remediation has been completed, or by restricting development or future use of the land. Another alternative might be to encourage site owners or known polluters into voluntary investigations or clean-up.
Greater risk to homeowners
Perhaps most significant though, are the implications for residents living on or near to contaminated sites. As a result of the withdrawal of funding, there is now a much greater risk that if contamination is discovered, the homeowner will be asked to foot the bill for the clean-up. This is in addition to the blight that a property suffers by association, which can have a major impact on its value and make it difficult or impossible to sell. And of course, there is always a concern about the risks to health that contaminated land may bring.
At this stage, it's uncertain how the situation will pan out, and much rests on how the local authorities and developers choose to act following the end of the scheme. A practical option in the meantime may be to offer insurance to homebuyers to protect them against the threat of future clean-up costs and enforcement action if historical contaminated land is uncovered after their purchase.
HELP from Countrywide
Our Home Environmental Liability Policy (HELP) offers market-leading protection against the threat posed by historical land contamination and covers:
all clean-up costs and expenses incurred to comply with any remediation required by the local authority (whether or not a remediation notice has been issued)
any shortfall in the market value of the property when sold in the future, following a claim
a 15 year period as standard
policy limits up to £10 million
successors in title.
With premiums starting from just £35 for a £50,000 policy limit, HELP is one of the cheapest contaminated land policies around. For further information, call us on 01603 617617.