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Contaminated land

How contaminated land issues could affect you:

Contaminated Land Inspection Work

Like all Scottish councils, we have a legal duty to inspect our area to identify and remediate contaminated land (remediation means cleaning it up and making it safe for its current use). This duty is under Part IIA of the Environmental Act 1990 (as amended).

Our work involves carrying out various investigations and risk assessments to make sure a site is suitable for its current use.

We’ve identified several thousand former industrial sites across Fife.

How the law defines contaminated land

The legal definition 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 a significant possibility of such harm being caused
  • significant pollution of the water environment is being caused or there is a significant possibility of such harm being caused

Fife's Contaminated Land Inspection Strategy

Producing an inspection strategy is one of our legal duties. It details:

  • how we've identified and prioritised which sites to investigate
  • information about who is responsible for contaminated land and for making it safe
  • the contacts we use for specialist advice

We published our first strategy in October 2001 and have updated it several times as our programme has progressed.

How we implement our inspection strategy

Contaminated land is a complex and specialised subject, so we've contracted three professional environmental consultants who are experts in this field.

Using their knowledge and experience, and our knowledge of Fife, we work together to identify and investigate sites in line with our strategy.

Redeveloping Land affected by Contamination

The Scottish Government is encouraging developments on former industrial sites. These sites are often called brownfield sites.

What we do

Part of our role is to make sure these kinds of developments are done properly. We do this through the planning process by giving general information and advice.

What developers need to do

Anyone involved in developing former industrial land needs to consider contamination issues very carefully.

Our role in the Development Process

We advise Fife Council’s Development Management Services on land contamination matters in planning issues. They still take the lead in all planning issues.

For example, we may review reports that accompany a planning application. But all information that accompanies planning applications must first be sent to them, not to us.

What advice we can, and can’t give:

We can provide general information and advice, for example to developers.

Contamination issues can be complex and could have a major impact on your development. So please get in touch with us as early as possible if you have any queries.

But please bear in mind that we can’t act as consultants, for example by interpreting facts or advice.

We have published an advice booklet for developing brownfield sites in Fife which may prove useful for developers and their consultants when submitting reports to accompany a planning application.  This advice booklet includes:

  • the minimum information we'll accept for contaminated land reports submitted in support of a planning application
  • what's required for reports at each stage of the contaminated land investigation process
  • a checklist you can download to use in your reports

The Developer's Responsibility

If you’re a developer seeking to redevelop a site that may have been affected by contamination, you’re responsible for making sure it’s suitable for the proposed use.

Planning Advice Note (PAN) 33 sets out this responsibility. It states:

“Where planning consent is granted for a site on which the presence of contamination is known or suspected, an advisory note may be attached to the planning permission informing the applicant(s) that the responsibility for the safe development of the site rests with the developer.

“It may also warn the applicant that the planning authority has determined the application on the basis of the information available to it, but this does not mean that the land is free from contamination.”

How to show you’ve taken contamination into account

You should be able to show that you have considered potential contamination as a factor affecting your development by carrying out appropriate site investigations.

If you don’t follow the recommended procedures

Failing to complete appropriate investigations and carry out remediation work properly can have serious consequences. You run the risk of:

  • harming people’s health
  • damaging the environment
  • cause land blight
  • not being able to sell properties
  • being investigated under contaminated land regulations

Requesting Environmental Information

The way we provide environmental information – and the types of information we can provide – has changed. We can provide site-specific information for properties and plots of land across the Fife area, however we no longer provide our Environmental Enquiry reporting service.

We can provide information contained within our databases. The volume and type of information that’s available will vary for each site. Please see our Historical Land Use and District Landfill map below.

**Please note, that there are intermittent issues with the map. If you're unable to get the information you need, please email us**

We cannot provide information which is not owned by Fife Council (for example, historical maps, coal mining information, British Geological Survey data). However, the following links may be of use:

Any specific queries should be sent to Fife Council’s Information Requests Team ( for processing as either an EIR or FOI request.

Related Publications

Useful Links