A Guide to Developing Potentially Contaminated Sites

The planning system controls the development and use of land in the wider public interest.  One of the issues that has to be considered when we deal with a planning application is whether the proposal will be affected by the presence of contaminated land.

Contamination can threaten the health and safety of the public, the environment, the built environment and economic activities through its impact on those using the land and neighbouring users.  The potential end use of a site can be restricted by the presence of contamination.  Where contamination is found to be significant, the Local Authority for the area i.e., the Comhairle for the Western Isles, must take active steps to remove or reduce the risk to people and the environment.

Role of the Developer

When development is proposed, the primary responsibility for safeguarding land and other property (including neighbouring land) against any risk from contamination remains with the owner.  It is the responsibility of the developer to ensure that the development is safe and ‘suitable for use’ for the intended purpose. 

Where a site is regarded as potentially contaminated the Comhairle will expect the appropriate site investigation procedure to be carried out.

Dealing With Planning Applications

On any site where there is the potential for contamination that could influence the development, the planning officer will consult with the Environmental Health Section.  The application will then be assessed and certain conditions may be imposed upon the development to ensure that the site is made suitable for the proposed use and that the safety of future site users and the environment is taken into account.

How to Get Advice

If you are unsure whether or not the site you want to develop is contaminated, or you know that it probably is, it would be helpful if you contacted us or the Planning Service for advice specific to your site before you submit your planning application.