Types of contaminated land

Find out what contaminated land is and who is responsible for it.

What counts as contaminated land

Contaminated land is where substances are causing: 

  • significant harm to people, property or protected species 
  • significant pollution of surface waters, like lakes and rivers, or groundwater 
  • harm to people as a result of radioactivity 

Contaminated land may previously have been used as a chemical works, mine or quarry, factory or landfill, among other use by other industries. These sites are often called brownfield sites which can be a problem because: 

  • there may be harmful substances in, on or under the land 
  • water pollution might be caused by substances at the site 

However, brownfield sites do not generally cause a problem unless they are redeveloped for a different use.

Our responsibilities

We are responsible for enforcing the ‘contaminated land’ legislation under the Environment Protection Act 1990, which you can view on the Government Legislation website.

The legislation aims to protect people, property and the environment from contaminants in the ground, and encourage the brownfield regeneration of contaminated sites. We are required to assess land to identify/determine if land is contaminated, and ensure action is taken by the appropriate person to improve the land to a suitable standard. 

The legislation also requires us to prepare a contaminated land strategy which details how we identify and deal with contaminated land. View this for each former district and borough here.

Public register

The council is required to produce and maintain a public register of any lands within North Yorkshire that have been designated as contaminated land. There are currently no entries on this public register.

There are no sites within the North Yorkshire Council area that are designated as contaminated land under Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. This statement applies to all localities formerly administered by Craven District Council, Hambleton District Council, Harrogate Borough Council, Richmondshire District Council, Ryedale District Council, Scarborough Borough Council and Selby District Council. 

Action required

If you own or occupy contaminated land, or you did in the past, you may be responsible for cleaning up the pollution. If the previous owner is unknown, the current owner may be responsible, or we may carry out this work if the polluter or owner of the site can’t be found. Owners and occupiers of domestic properties are not usually liable for these costs.