The British Government does not have a good record at providing incentives, cash or otherwise, to encourage the reclamation of contaminated land to building use.
At a Conference this may, the Environment Secretary Hilary Be, dismissed the idea bluntly by saying: “In the end, where does incentive money come from?” he asked. “There’s a not a secret pot we can dip into. It comes from you, the taxpayers.”
He was speaking at a National Conference titled ‘Think 08: Sustainability in the Built Environment’, which brought together experts to look at this issue among many other ways to reinforce sustainable building considerations in all of the UK’s current building projects.
Liz Peace, Chief Executive of the British Property Federation, and Paul King, Chief Executive of the UK Green Building Council, joined forces to urge the Government to address the issues of incentives for property developers who seek to build on contaminated land, once and for all. They and others urged the Government to join with a Forum to examine possible incentives to developers and contractors in these cases. Feed-in tariffs and income tax rebates are just 2 of the possible incentives that these leading players in the UK building market believe the Government could offer contractors as sweeteners to clean up contaminated land.
A recent example of a large building project having been halted due to the discovery of Industrial contamination, is at Matlock in Derbyshire. At the Cawdor Quarry site, developers Groveholt Ltd have had permission to build a large project containing 432 houses and 22 commercial units since 2002.
However, the site was previously a limestone quarry, and since this use stopped and other Industries have used the site, in their assessment for building regulations, Groveholt Ltd found high levels of lead in the ground, and were forced to halt plans to develop the site. The estimated clean up bill for the entire site would run into millions of pounds, which would be a huge burden on the developer, and could result in the cost of properties that would be eventually built, taking on that extra financial burden.
In any local cases where a property owner, developer or small contractor discovers their building site is contaminated in any way, they need to work with Local Council Building Inspectors and officers who will act as a channel to any help that the Government might be able to offer. But as we have seen, they are only currently considering what they might offer, and there are no definite incentives in place from the UK Government at this time.