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Land contamination

What is contaminated land?

Under Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act, the statutory definition of contaminated land is:

"any land which appears to the local authority in whose area it is situated to be in such a condition, by reason of substances in, on or under the land, that significant harm is being caused or there is significant possibility of such harm being cause or, pollution of controlled waters is being caused or is likely to be caused."

To meet this definition there must therefore be the following components:

  • Contaminant
  • Pathway
  • Receptor


We are responsible for enforcing the contaminated land legislation. We have various duties with regard to polluted sites, under planning law and the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Specialists within Health & Environmental Services act as advisers to all council departments on land contamination issues: supplying information, assessing the adequacy of site investigations and remediation measures and monitoring approved schemes during development.


We will therefore:

  • Carry out inspections of all land within its district that may be contaminated
  • Ensure that developed land is suitable for its use
  • Keep a Public Register of designated contaminated land sites

The Council has published a Contaminated Land Strategy [PDF, 0.6MB] outlining how it will carry out these duties.

The Council's Public Register of the remediation of contaminated land is now available:

The public register does not include details of historic land use and other information used in the identification and investigation of potentially contaminated land, or information on sites that have been remediated through the planning and development control process.

How can I find out more?

Further information can be found in the documents:


Environmental search

To find out whether a piece of land might be affected by contamination, you can request an Environmental Search. 

For a straightforward request to find out whether the site has been highlighted for further investigation in line with the Council's Contaminated Land Strategy and duties under Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, there is no charge. However, for any further questions such as historical land use, adjacent uses, previous investigations etc, which require a more extensive record search, the Council charges £150.

We also recommend uploading a site plan confirming the extent of the land in question via the uploaded files button on the below online form.

Request an environmental search

Land Contamination and Planning Applications

The actual or potential presence of contamination is a material planning consideration. Contaminated land should be considered and assessed in accordance with government / industry best practice and technical guidance. 

In addition, South Cambridgeshire District Council has a Supplementary Planning Document - District Design Guide: High Quality and Sustainable Development in South Cambridgeshire, adopted March 2010. The relevant section is Chapter 10 - Environmental Health & Appendix 5: Development of Potentially Contaminated Sites.