What is contaminated land?

Land that has previously been contaminated by industrial/commercial use and waste disposal.

This means there may be harmful substances in, on or under the land and that water pollution might be caused by substances at the site.

When is land declared contaminated?

  • When it contains significant levels of  a pollutant (known as the source)
  • Someone or something (known as the receptor) could be affected by the pollutant and
  • The pollutant can get to the receptor in significant quantities (known as the pathway).

These three elements together are known as the pollutant linkage.

Who is responsible?

If you own or occupy contaminated land now, or you did in the past, you may be responsible for cleaning up the pollution. You may still be responsible for cleaning up the pollution after you have sold the land.  Some contamination can be a hazard to current occupants or neighbours and the law says the problem must be put right.

The law follows the polluter pays principle meaning the person or organisation that caused or permitted the contamination must pay to have it put right. If that person or organisation is not known, then the current owner of the land may become responsible.

Redevelopment of land

The approval of an application for redevelopment of land will usually be granted subject to contamination of the land being assessed and where necessary cleaned up to a standard that makes it suitable for the new use of the land. Responsibility for assessment of land for redevelopment lies with the developer. 

You should obtain specialist advice from an environmental consultant or a specialist lawyer before you buy or sell contaminated land. When you buy land in Bolton, the Land Charges department will tell you if a site has been declared as contaminated land.

What Bolton Council does about contaminated land

Requests for site specific information

Any request for environmental information with respect to contamination of a specific site/property will incur a fee unless you live at the property.

You will need to submit the request in written format with a location map attached and provide the correct fee for the information (cheque made payable to Bolton Council) to the address or email on the Contacts. The information will not be provided until the fee has been received.


    Pollution Control Unit

    Ellesmere House

    Mayor Street Depot

    Ellesmere Street


    BL3 5DT (Please note there is no visitor access at this address)

    Telephone 01204 336500
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