Contaminated land

What is contaminated land?

Land is only declared contaminated if:

  • it contains a source of pollution - the source
  • someone (or something) could be affected by the pollutant - the receptor
  • the pollution can get to the receptor - the pathway

Whoever owned contaminated land in the past or occupies it now may be responsible for cleaning up the pollution even after the land is sold.

The law follows the 'polluter pays' principle. The person or organisation that caused or permitted the contamination must pay to have it put right. If that person or organisation is not known, then the current owner of the land may become responsible.

Owners and occupiers of domestic properties are not usually liable for these costs.

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How are brownfield sites re-used?

Some land has been contaminated in the past by industries such as gasworks, mines and quarries, tanneries, chemical works and landfills - these are often called brownfield sites. 

We’re keen to ensure that brownfield sites are brought back into use - but they must be made safe first. The approval of a planning application for redevelopment of brownfield sites will usually only be granted on condition that the contamination is cleaned up to a standard that makes it suitable for the new use of the land.

If you are thinking of buying brownfield land you should obtain specialist advice from an environmental consultant or a specialist lawyer before you invest. Our Environmental Health team will be able tell you if a site has been declared as contaminated land.

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What is our role?

We are responsible for enforcing contaminated land legislation. We:

  • publish a Contaminated Land Inspection Strategy (pdf, 300kb) along with an Appendix, (pdf, 353kb) which says how we will find contaminated sites in South Derbyshire
  • carry out inspections of land that may be contaminated
  • find out who is responsible for putting right the contamination and discuss the problem with them
  • formally declare land contaminated
  • agree the necessary action and make sure it is done
  • keep a public register of contaminated land sites, the action that was required to put the problem right and any legal action that has been taken
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How do I request a contaminated land search?

Fears about possible contamination can cause real problems with the sale of land and property. We provide a service to businesses, solicitors and private individuals offering an easy to understand report with historical data about the condition of land.

We currently offer one standard search type, suitable for conveyancing (solicitors and householders), developers and consultants.

If you would like to request a contaminated land search, email

The charge for this search can be found on our fees page.

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I'm a developer - how do I submit a contaminated land assessment?

We have issued simple guidance (pdf, 896kb) for developers on how to submit contaminated land assessments to support a planning application.

The Derbyshire Contaminated Land Working Group booklet (pdf, 947kb) also provides guidance relating to the verification and validation of remedial works undertaken on development sites to allow the discharge of some planning conditions.

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