Land contamination is often the unintentional by-product of industrial development and waste disposal. Prolonged exposure to contaminated land may lead to health problems as well as causing damage to the natural environment.
An industrial past
Like many urban areas, the Wycombe district has a significant history of industrial usage. Former industry in the district includes old landfill sites, former factories (especially furniture), paper mills, gas works and military land. These former land uses have the potential to leave contamination (pollution) in the ground, which if not properly dealt with, can affect land quality and pose a risk to human health, water supplies, natural habitats and property.
A legal responsibility
The Council has a legal responsibility (Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990) to identify sites within the district where contamination poses an unacceptable health risk and to take the necessary actions to ensure that these sites are cleaned up to a standard suitable for their intended use. The council's Contaminated Land Strategy details how this work is being carried out.
You can download our Contaminated Land Strategy below.
Planning for the future
Many new developments in the district are on previously developed (brownfield) land. The Council's Control of Pollution team act as technical advisors to the Planning Department to ensure that the issue of land contamination is taken into consideration on all planning applications and that land is made suitable for its intended development.
You can download our guidance note for developments on contaminated land below.
(This guidance note has been produced by the Bucks Land Quality Forum, a forum consisting of all of the councils in Buckinghamshire. The aim of the Forum is to promote county-wide consistency of brownfield regulation)
During all property transactions solicitors are duty bound to make enquiries about land-use history. This process is known as "due diligence" and it is done to ensure that the purchaser of a property does not inherit any outstanding liabilities relating to contaminated land. The Council holds a significant amount of information relevant to this process and we are able to provide this information upon request - please see our environmental searches page. There may be a charge dependent upon the complexity of the enquiry.
Guidance and advice for house purchasers/sellers may be downloaded below.
Guerrilla gardening and urban food crops
In recent years there has been a growing and welcome trend towards more sustainable lifestyles and the use of locally produced food. This ethical way of living has been publicised in the popular media in a variety of ways, in particular Channel 4's River Cottage series hosted by TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. The River Cottage project promotes the principles of self-sufficiency, food integrity, and the consumption of local, seasonal produce.
While the Council endorses the River Cottage philosophy, caution must be exercised over the issue of growing edible produce on vacant, derelict and under-used land - "guerrilla gardening". This type of land often has an industrial history and can often be contaminated - crops grown in these areas could have a negative impact on human health. It is recommended that anyone considering harnessing the potential of their local landscapes to grow food crops should contact the Council's Contaminated Land Officer for advice on soil quality.
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