Contaminated land

What is contaminated land?

Land contamination is usually caused by previous industrial use or the deposition of waste such as heavy metals, oils and tars, solvents, gases, asbestos, radioactive substances, and other types of contaminants.

Legal definition

The legal definition set out in Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 defines contaminated land as "land where substances could cause significant harm to people or protected species and/or significant pollution of surface waters or groundwater".

Our responsibilities

The council is committed to enforcing relevant legislation relating to contaminated land by:

  • publishing a contaminated land strategy
  • carry out inspections of land that may be contaminated
  • identify those responsible for the clean-up of the site
  • formally declare land as contaminated
  • keep a public register of contaminated land site.

Check our register of contaminated sites

Developer responsibilities

Where land is to be redeveloped, it will always be more appropriate to deal with contamination issues through the planning regime protocol, National Planning Policy Framework (NPFF).

Under the planning regime it is the responsibility of the developer/purchaser of the land to identify any potentially harmful substances and materials present at the site before applying for planning permission. If this is not done planning permission may still be granted but certain conditions will be attached to the application.

Although the responsibility of investigating and cleaning up (remediating) the site lies with the developer, the council will work with the developer to ensure that the contamination is removed and the site made safe for the new development.

Download the Information for Developers document.

For detailed information on the London Borough of Tower Hamlets contaminated land strategy, please refer to our contaminated land strategy 2017.

Public requests for information

A public request for information is normally used when members of the public, solicitors or environmental consultancies want specific questions answered about a site. Enquiries are subject to a charge to cover costs incurred in providing the information. The standard charges from 1 April 2019 are highlighted below:

  • a specific site (e.g. residential property), the fee is £231.60 (VAT inclusive)
  • a specific site (e.g. a proposed site for development/commercial), including a 'buffer zone' of 250 metres around the site, the fee is £276 (VAT inclusive)
  • a large site or multiple areas within a large site (e.g. a proposed site for development), including a 'buffer zone' of 250 meters, a special fee of £614.40 is applicable (VAT inclusive). 

Your enquiry will be acknowledged by email within three working days of receipt. Once the fee has been received by the council, a response shall be sent within ten working days.

For information about this please call 020 7364 5000 where you will be asked to provide your contact details and the location of the site/address about which you are enquiring.