Potential land contamination may affect any development site and it is a pre-commencement requirement for these risks to be assessed. Developers appoint environmental consultants to undertake investigations and provide them with advice; however in many cases the quality of investigations carried out can vary (often due to commercial pressures from developers when tendering for work).
When incomplete or inaccurate investigations are submitted through the planning process, any retrospective comments provided by Liverpool City Council (LCC) may then cause significant delays to the commencement of a development and further unanticipated costs for a developer. With depleted resources available, and our intention to focus on sites of most-pressing risk, LCC has produced a Checklist / Declaration submission form to supplement any planning consultation on potentially-contaminated land.
The checklist sets out publically-available criteria for environmental consultants to follow during the preparation of site investigations, and for them to provide confirmation that the prerequisites have been complied with (in order to minimise delays and subsequent complications with the planning process).
It will assist with any planning submission's QA/QC, and may also be used by environmental consultants to justify any investigation tendering costs from the outset. LCC will then use this checklist to undertake a screening assessment of the submission before carrying out a detailed review in relation to the proposed development.
Outcome & impact
A trial of the checklist ran for three months and positive feedback has been received from the private sector (both environmental consultants and developers). It is now a formal requirement to supplement any submission to LCC for developments on potentially-contaminated land (or sensitive end uses).
Obligations of the checklist must be satisfied before LCC will undertake a detailed review of the submitted information; however complying with the checklist will significantly improve the likelihood of favourable feedback then being received.
This supplementary form is not intended to be bureaucratic, or undermine the professional integrity or competence of the private sector; LCC is constrained to work within available resources, and the aim is to raise overall submission quality of land contamination assessments through a consistent approach, and to focus regulatory effort where it is needed. It may also help to ensure that developers receive optimum advice and value for money; and the outweighing benefits of this checklist approach are intended to be a smoother and quicker planning process - beneficial for both developers and LCC.
Lee Brownsword, Contaminated Land Officer, Liverpool City Council email: [email protected]