What is contaminated land?

The legal definition of contaminated land is:

"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 significant possibility of such harm being caused
  • Significant pollution of the water environment is being caused or there is significant possibility of such harm being caused."

Contamination can pose immediate or long-term risks to human health and the environment. Contaminants can cause air, land, surface water or groundwater pollution, damage to buildings and underground services, or contaminate the food chain.

Due to its industrial past, the Falkirk Council area has sites which are potentially affected by contamination.

We inspect land that may be contaminated

Legally, we must identify any sites within the Falkirk Council area that may pose a potential risk to the residents or the environment. We want to protect people, buildings and the environment from contamination.

We will assess how potential contamination from a former industrial or agricultural use could affect a site's current or future use.

It is our legal duty to:

  • Identify and remove unacceptable risks to human health and the environment
  • Look to bring damaged land back into use
  • Look to make sure that any contamination issue costs faced by individuals, companies and society as a whole are proportionate, manageable and economically sustainable.

Our Contaminated Land Inspection Strategy sets out how we inspect, identify and correct any contamination issues:

Contaminated Land Inspection Strategy 2001

Contaminated Land Register

We are required by law to keep a public register of "contaminated land" that can be accessed by the public.

There are currently no sites in the Falkirk Council area on the Contaminated Land Register:

Contaminated Land Register

The register can also be viewed free of charge at Abbotsford House, Davids Loan, Falkirk.


Frequently asked questions

  1. What do the Contaminated Land Team do?
  2. What advice can you give about contaminated land?
  3. How do I request information about a site?
  4. Who should carry out contaminated land investigations?
  5. How do I find an environmental consultant?
  6. When should contaminated land investigations be done?
  7. What's your role in the development process?
  8. What do applicants and developers need to do?
  9. What if I need a Building Warrant?
  10. Can land affected by contamination be development on?
  11. How could your inspection work affect me?

What do the Contaminated Land Team do?

We make sure developments involving contaminated land are carried out properly.

We do this:

  • Through the planning and building standards process
  • By giving general information and advice to applicants and developers

What advice can you give about contaminated land?

We can give advice about a new development, redevelopment or change of use on land that may have been affected by contamination by a former industrial or agricultural use.

Contamination issues can be complicated and could have a major impact on your development. Please contact us as early as possible if you have any questions.

We cannot act as consultants on your development, for example by interpreting facts or advice.


How do I request information about a site?

Legally you can request information about contaminated land from us. 

This service is often used by environmental consultants, solicitors and home buyers and we may charge for this information.

If the information is sensitive, we will ask the owners of the land for permission to release the information to you.

Please send your request by letter or email:

Contaminated Land Team
Abbotsford House
Davids Loan
Falkirk
FK2 7YZ

You should include:

  • A site map clearly showing the boundary of your site
  • Any questions you may have
  • Your contact details so we can respond to you

This will help us make sure we can give you information specific to the land you are interested in.

We aim to respond to you within 20 working days, or 40 working days if your enquiry is complicated, of receiving your request.


Who should carry out contaminated land investigations?

We encourage you to work with an environmental consultant. However, we can’t recommend any individuals or companies.

If you have to carry out intrusive investigations, you will also need the services of a drilling contractor and analytical laboratory.


How do I find an environmental consultant?

You must be satisfied that your consultant is suitably qualified to carry out any investigations you may need.

You can do this by:

  • Checking our Statutory Planning Guidance for the minimum requirements we need from investigation reports and asking your potential consultant about the content of their reports
  • Asking to see the types of report your consultant produces

You can find contact details for environmental consultants in local trade directories, Yellow Pages and the Ends Directory.


When should contaminated land investigations be done?

You must consider contamination issues early in the development process. You must consider these issues before work begins on site. This is because the results of your investigations may affect your design features, delay the works or add to your costs.

For example, you may need to:

  • Upgrade water supply pipes
  • Install gas and vapour protection measures
  • Upgrade concrete used for foundations
  • Remove contaminated material from the site and bring in new material, for example, soil

To save time and money, these investigations are sometimes carried out at the same time as a geotechnical investigation.


What's your role in the development process?

We advise applicants and developers about land contamination matters in planning issues. You should contact Development Management for all planning enquiries or issues.

We may review any reports that accompany a planning application, but all this information must be sent to Development Management, not to us.

You can contact Development Management:

01324 504748

You can also write to them at:

Development Management
Development Services
Falkirk Council
Abbotsford House
Davids Loan
Falkirk
FK2 7YZ


What do applicants and developers need to do?

Anyone who is involved in developing former industrial or agricultural land must consider contamination issues carefully.

If you are a developer or a planning applicant, you are responsible for making sure a site that may be affected by contamination is suitable for its intended use.

You must be able to show that you have considered how contamination could affect your development. You should do this by carrying out any appropriate investigations detailed in our Statutory Planning Guidance (SPG).


What if I need a Building Warrant?

If a development requires a building warrant, a land contamination assessment may be required. If the development has gone through the planning process, in most cases the information submitted will be enough to satisfy the Building Standard requirements.


Can land affected by contamination be development on?

The Scottish Government encourages the reuse of land which may be affected by contamination. For more information, you can read their guidance on the development of contaminated land.

Our Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) provides guidance to developers, planning applicants and consultants interested in developing potentially contaminated sites.

This Supplementary Planning Guidance includes:

  • The minimum information that we will accept for contaminated land reports submitted in support of a planning application
  • What is required for reports at each stage of the contaminated land process
  • Checklists you can download to use in your reports

If a planning application is made for a site of current or historical agricultural use, the planning applicant should complete and submit our agricultural questionnaire as part of the planning process.


How could your inspection work affect me?

Our inspection programme could affect you if you are:

  • A home owner or occupier
  • A landowner
  • Selling or buying property or land

We can give you advice about a new development, redevelopment or change of use on land that may have been affected by contamination by a former industrial or agricultural use.

This could affect you if you are:

  • A developer
  • Planning to build on previously developed land
  • Buying or selling a property built on previously developed land