Challenging times are ahead for Government agencies with the need to achieve savings across the board due to the economic downturn. With the changing of Government what does this mean for the contaminated land sector with regards to Part 2A funding and dealing with contaminated land through planning?
Identifying and dealing with contaminated land is a statutory function through the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Existing sites are identified, prioritised and investigated under Part 2A of the Act, whereas new developments are managed through planning and building control guidance notes (Policy Planning Statement: 23 and Building Control Approved Document C respectively).
This statutory function should be serviced by the Government, but with regards to planning this is dealt with locally by senior management who determine what slice of the dwindling money cake they divert to contaminated land. In future, as belts tighten some may rely on a skeleton staff, while others maintain existing staff levels, depending upon what importance individual Local Authorities place on “contaminated land”.
Defra, the Government Department that funds Part 2A work is in a state of flux with a requirement to make substantial savings. Capital Grant funds previously ring fenced from Defra for contaminated land have recently been removed and will now be halved to £7.5 million. It is now likely that Defra will award future funding only for sites likel;y to be determined as Part 2A, to demonstrate to the tax payers that they are getting value for money. It will not be a surprise if Local Authorities may have to share the burden for remediation, which could limit the numbers applying for funding as the Local Authority budget is reduced.
Challenging times are ahead for us all, but Local Authorities should not be exempt from streamlining as any business in the private sector understands. Contaminated land is a highly scientific multi-disciplined subject whose funds should be ring fenced. However, if the powers that be do not consider it a priority, a reduction in contaminated land staff may lead to substantial backlogs of planning applications that will need to be discharged.
LK Consult is already working with and on behalf of Local Authorities to assist in the undertaking of Part 2A investigations and the reviewing of planning related reports. A number of our consultants have regulatory experience and understand what is required to successfully discharge contamination related planning conditions and are therefore in a strong position to aid beleaguered regulators with the backlog of planning applications that they may soon face.