Brownfield redevelopments: what should conveyancers consider? by Sponsor Landmark Information

by Chris Loaring, Managing Director, Landmark Information (Legal) chrisloaring_md_landmark-information-legal-



As the sustainability agenda becomes more deep-rooted in our political, regulatory, social and environmental consciousness, brownfield land development continues to take a more prominent role in the UK’s redevelopment plans.


With Housing Minister, Esther McVey, recently welcoming more brownfield land development as a way of Government meeting its housing pledge, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has estimated that around 1.8 million new homes are viable, on approximately 35,000 hectares of brownfield land across England and Wales.


Given the Government’s commitment to deliver 300,000 new homes per year, and the challenges identified in doing so raised by the Letwin Review of 2018, brownfield redevelopment is a viable option, which is of course good news for the country’s greenbelt.


While there are many positives around brownfield redevelopment, there are inherent risks that need careful and well considered management to ensure homeowners, or those purchasing properties, are not exposed to significant land remediation costs should historical contaminants be present. 


The regulatory and health risks associated with contaminated land are a critical consideration for any brownfield project of the future, and also for those existing residential properties that find themselves located on land associated with our vast industrial heritage.


Some of the largest and most recent brownfield redevelopment projects attest to the magnitude of these risks, with the Avenue Coking Works in Chesterfield providing a compelling example. This facility operated from the 1950s, producing at its peak three million pounds of coke and 27 million cubic feet of gas per day. This benefited the economy however the impact on the underlying ground was a legacy of contamination.


Remediation and clean up began in the late 1990s and is estimated to have cost Homes England £179m to complete the work. To look at this another way, that equates to £366,000 per property for a 489-home scheme.


The current UK planning and regulatory regime underlying the redevelopment market ensures that, in most cases, these risks are captured, quantified and resolved on residential developments now and into the future.


Parts of the existing UK housing stock could however be unknowingly subject to similar risks. For example, properties built before 1990, when the enactment of Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 came into force, wouldn’t have been subject to such stringent and comprehensive checks.


This is where legal due diligence comes into its own for anyone buying a new property. Home-owners are protected from risks associated with contaminated land as part of the legal process that supports property transactions. Conveyancers are able to access a multitude of reports that provide the insights, guidance and analysis required on any potential risks related to land contamination, along with many other potential environmental hazards.


That is why Landmark has taken the step to increase remediation contributions in support of its entire suite of residential environmental reports. For example, the upgraded Contaminated Land remediation contributions for RiskView Residential reports has increased from £100,000 to £250,000. In doing so, those who access the reports as part of the conveyancing process benefit from increased peace of mind that, in the event of a large remediation claim, a method of recourse is available.


For property lawyers and conveyancers, if you can demonstrate that detailed due diligence has been undertaken upfront and an insurance policy is in place relating to future remediation claims, it can only be a good thing for all involved and offer increased peace-of-mind.



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