Mobile navigation

Contaminated land

Contaminated Land is land that poses a risk to humans, the environment or property. Past activities such as industrial or agricultural use can result in the release of chemicals and other substances into the soil.

What is Contaminated Land?

How the law defines contaminated land:

Land that 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 a significant possibility of such harm being caused 
  • significant pollution of the water environment is being caused or there is a significant possibility of such harm being caused"

If we identify any sites as meeting the legal definition of contaminated land, then we will add it to a Contaminated Land Register. At present we have no listed sites.  

Industry/activities that might have caused contamination include:

  • Any form of heavy industrial works e.g. metal production
  • Coal and mineral mining and processing, both deep mines and opencast
  • Heavy engineering and engineering works; e.g. car manufacture, shipbuilding
  • Military/defence related activities
  • Textile industry including tanning and dyestuffs
  • Sawmills and timber treatment
  • Food processing industry
  • Railway depots, dockyards, garages, road haulage depots, airports
  • Landfill storage and incineration of waste such as hospitals
  • Sewage works
  • Abattoirs, animal waste processing and burial of diseased livestock
  • Scrap yards
  • Dry cleaning purposes
  • All types of laboratories
  • Agricultural uses such as steadings, stables, slurry storage and areas of sheep dipping practices
  • Any sites with past or present fuel and oil storage including above-ground and below-ground tanks
  • Burial sites and graveyards
  • Areas of infilled/made ground

We may also deem a site as being potentially contaminated if we have records to suggest there has been contamination found on or within the vicinity of the site despite it not having a potentially contaminative past use.

How the Council deals with contaminated land

Under Part 2A of The Environmental Protection Act 1990, Perth & Kinross Council is required to identify and seek the remediation of contaminated land within the Council area. 

The Council primarily deals with land contamination through the planning and development process. We assess site suitability for the proposed use by investigating past site uses or potential contamination caused by nearby uses. This work can affect developers, landowners and those selling or buying land or property. 

If land is found to be contaminated, we will: 

  • Identify the responsible party for dealing with the contamination. This is called the Polluter Pays Principle and can include landowners and developers. 
  • Review relevant reports and site investigations which aim to identify the extent of the contamination. 
  • Establish the remedial work required to remove the contamination and make the site suitable for the proposed use. This is called the remediation phase. 
  • Review any necessary documents that support and verify that the work has been carried out to standard. This is called site verification. 

Developing Contaminated Land

The Contaminated Land team act as internal consultees advising the Development Management department of potential contamination issues on developments. However, Development Management still leads on all planning applications, so please bear in mind that any planning-related documentation should be sent to them in the first instance. 

How we determine if a proposed development site might be contaminated

When we receive a planning application, we will review the site history using mapping systems, historical records and any planning history attached to the site. 

If we think that there is potential contamination on a site, we will apply a condition to the planning application to ensure that the appropriate risk assessment and site investigation is carried out. This can involve some, or all, of the phases noted below to determine if the site is suitable for the proposed use.   

Phase 1 - Desk study

If a planning application receives a contaminated land condition, the developer can employ a consultant specialising in the environmental sector to carry out a desk study for the site. This should involve an investigation into the previous, current and proposed site uses. It is essential that the report includes a Conceptual Site Model (CSM) which outlines the risks associated with the past or current use with the proposed use. This should identify the level of risk associated between potential contamination and receptors - this can be end users (humans), construction workers, the environment etc. The report should also include a conclusion and recommendations where it is established whether further investigation is required or not, and justification for these measures.

Phase 2 - Intrusive Site Investigation

This phase should build upon the recommendations from the Phase 1 report. This phase involves investigating the ground in a practical manner through methods such as trial pits and boreholes. This can involve the extraction of soil samples from various depths, groundwater sampling and ground gas and vapour monitoring over a period of time. The results derived from these investigations should be interpreted with the identification of any exceedances for the proposed use. Any criteria that these are measured against should be mentioned within the report. 

It is essential that the laboratory results be used to update the Conceptual Site Model to establish any changes in the level of risk to the site end users. 

Each site should be assessed on a site-specific basis. Therefore, each site may require a different approach from the next, no set procedure can be followed for every development site. Each site has its own characteristics which can impact potential contamination such as past and current uses, the proposed use, soil type, geology, the surrounding environment, the development design, and the potential contaminants in question. 

Phase 3 - Remediation

This phase should be relative to the findings of the Phase 2 Site Investigation. Remediation involves the physical work to be carried out to remove any identified contamination or to break the pathway between the contaminant and the receptor. These works can involve methods such as excavation and disposal to an appropriate waste disposal site, 'capping' contaminated soils with clean soil or the installation of a gas protection membrane within the foundations of the building. A remedial strategy should be produced which outlines the proposed works in line with the appropriate standard and intended ways to evidence verification. This proposal should be submitted to the Development Management department to be assessed and agreed to by the Contaminated Land team prior to any remedial works being carried out. 

Once the proposed strategy has been agreed upon, work can go ahead ensuring that the methods agreed upon are adhered to. If the works carried out differ from those in the strategy, then the reasoning for this should be mentioned in the next phase. 

Phase 4 - Verification

This phase involves ensuring that the remediation stage has been successful in making the site suitable for the proposed use. This stage can involve further sampling focussed around the remediated area to ascertain that the contamination levels are now at a safe level. This can also involve documentation that protective measures have been installed successfully. The installation of ground gas protection membranes can be verified through photographic evidence of the membrane in situ accompanied by a signed document from the person overseeing the works that all service ducts and any tears have been appropriately sealed and repaired. 

Once the Contaminated Land team have reviewed the verification report and are satisfied that the contamination risk to the site end-users is low, the condition can be discharged via Development Management. 

Not all planning applications which receive a contaminated land condition will have to carry out the above phases. If the Contaminated Land team are satisfied that adequate evidence has been submitted to satisfy that contamination risk is low to the end users, then no further action will be required, however, confirmation comes from Development Management. 

Further information can be found in the Scottish contaminated land developers guide

Requesting information relating to contaminated land

If you would like to request any information relating to contaminated land within the Perth & Kinross Council area, you can receive this information via a Freedom of Information (FOI) Request.  This can be requested by emailing or by post to FOI, Pullar House, 35 Kinnoull Street, Perth, PH1 5GD.

Please include the following in your request:

  • Site map with a clear boundary line of the area you are referring to
  • The address or grid reference of the site, or a relevant planning application number
  • Clear, bullet point questions, if possible

We can search our historical records, maps and archives to try and find the information you are looking for.

Further information can be found on our Freedom of information page.

Frequently Asked Questions 

How can I find a consultant to investigate potential contamination on my development site?

We cannot provide recommendations for individual consultants or companies. However, it is advised that you employ a suitably qualified environmental consultant with a background in land contamination. You may also require the services of a drilling contractor or analytical laboratory. 

How can I access contaminated land information relating to a development site?

Contaminated land information such as internal consultee responses, correspondence, and some site investigation reports can be found by searching for the planning application on the Public Access Register

Applications with contaminated land information can be viewed on the 'documents' tab. Please note that not all contaminated land information attached to a planning application will be available online.

What other ways can land become contaminated?

Land contamination can result from a number of incidents such as fuel spillages and illegal dumping of waste, which can then impact the wider environment. Who you report the incident to can vary depending on the nature of the incident. Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has collated a useful table of who to contact for pollution complaints. 

Last modified on 30 January 2023

Share this page

Facebook icon Twitter icon email icon


print icon