Not all contaminated sites will be this easy to spot. Image © John Durrant
Contamination of commercial properties is not always visible to the naked eye and, quite often, the problems are hidden underground. Recently, the purchase of a town-centre retail property based on brownfield land, seemingly in excellent condition, was not as straightforward as it first appeared.
The property was built on the site of buried gas works that, it emerged, were heavily contaminated and unless you were to conduct an environmental search you would fail to realise the danger until, inevitably, toxins had begun seeping into the nearby river.
Whilst it’s still the case that ‘polluter pays’ when it comes to pollution law, the waters are truly muddied when it comes to identifying the polluter within case law.
Developers, for instance, have been prosecuted for building homes on contaminated land, even when the contamination was caused by others. Another recent case made both the polluter and developer responsible for a plot that had been decontaminated in the 1980s but to a standard which now falls short of modern regulations.
It can be a costly business too, with the bill for that particular case likely to be in excess of £10m, and this emerging a full two decades after the homes were constructed. If the property was built by a short- lived development company – which is often the case- the current owners of the property would be liable for the remediation costs.
Local Authorities are no longer required to search for contaminated land within their region but that doesn’t mean that the risks of owning a commercial property have evaporated and environmental interrogations are likely to remain a necessity for planning approval.
The majority of commercial properties are not likely to be at risk from contamination but the consequences for those affected few are too severe to ignore and make it wise for those buying commercial properties to secure peace of mind with an environmental search.
Prevent potential costly bills and help your clients make an informed purchasing decision with a fully-interpreted environmental report from Landmark Information Group through TM Group. Contact your account manager or the TM Helpdesk on 0844 249 9200 to order.