Contaminated Land Inspection Strategy

B&NES Unitary Authority was created in 1996 following reorganisation of Local Government in the area covered by the former Avon County Council. It has responsibility for all the functions traditionally carried out by county and local authorities, and covers the communities served by the former Bath City and Wansdyke Local Authorities. It will, therefore, be necessary to refer to some pieces of information obtained from documents produced by the relevant previous authority [7][8].

This section provides a description of the characteristics of the B&NES District which are important in identifying key local features relevant to the identification of and strategic inspection for contaminated land.

2.1 Geographical Location

Figure 2.1 illustrates the location of B&NES in relation to other unitary authorities in the Avon area. The B&NES boundary stretches from the picturesque lakes of the Chew Valley in the west to the World Heritage City of Bath and the Wiltshire border to the east.

Bath is set in rolling hills and woodland, which are dissected by the River Avon. The countryside around is part of the Bristol/Bath Green Belt and the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The City boundary runs tightly around the built up area [8]

The town of Keynsham lies close to Bristol with the southern boundary provided by the Mendip Hills around the former mining towns of Midsomer Norton and Radstock.

2.2 Size and Population Distribution

Covering 35,112 hectares, the areas of B&NES contrast greatly in terms of the density and diversity of population. The City of Bath accounts for approximately half the population and is 12 times more densely populated than the remainder of North East Somerset. Bath covers 29 km2, whilst the population of the remaining area is spread over 323 km2. The main concentrations of population are at Midsomer Norton, Radstock, Keynsham, Saltford and Bath.

The 1991 Census of England and Wales calculated the total population of B&NES as being 158,692 with 78,689 residing in Bath and 80,003 living across the remaining area. The 2001 Census of England and Wales, however, calculated that the total number had risen to 169,040.

In order to present a more detailed view of the areas within the district it has been divided into 4 sub-areas: Bath; Keynsham and Saltford; Norton Radstock; and the remaining rural area. These are shown in Figure 2.2. A list of the wards and their populations can be found in Appendix G: Wards of Bath and of North East Somerset. 

2.3 Details of B&NES Council Land Ownership

Details of land currently owned by B&NES Council are held on the Council’s Geographical Information System (GIS) and will be utilised during the inspection stage. Full details may not be provided here, as the length of leases on commercial properties could be confidential information.

 2.4 Current Land Use Characteristics

Approximately 75 per cent of the Authority’s area outside of Bath is undeveloped, consisting principally of agricultural land.

Industrial activity expanded with the development of the Somerset Coalfield in the 18th and 19th centuries, and Norton-Radstock and the adjoining villages became colliery communities. In the north of the District the Fry’s (now Cadbury’s) chocolate factory relocated from Bristol in 1922 to a greenfield site near the Avon at Keynsham. Elsewhere, village industries grew into well-known businesses like Harbutt’s Plasticine factory at Bathampton and Purnell’s printing works at Paulton.

In line with national trends, Bath’s industrial profile has changed over the last 20 years and there has been a decline in the traditional manufacturing sector demonstrated by the closure or relocation of various companies. Bath’s main industries included heavy and light engineering, shoe manufacture, and printing and publishing.

There are also Ministry of Defence sites at Foxhill, Ensleigh and Warminster Road, Bath, although these are mainly administrative in character.

2.4.1 Nature Conservation and Land Use

Bath is built at the southern end of the Cotswold hills where a number of valleys meet the River Avon. The underground tunnels in the area, from which the stone to build the World Heritage city was quarried, continue to add to the status of the area, now hosting internationally important populations of Greater Horseshoe Bats. Unimproved grassland, together with tracts of Woodland, and ‘green corridors’ including hedgerows and river tributaries, represent wildlife havens within urban and rural areas, increasingly surrounded as Bath and other developments spread up valley sides and over plateaux, and as agricultural intensification transforms other parts of the Cotswolds and areas to the west to a rolling landscape of pasture and arable land.  The exploitation of the Somerset Coalfield has added industrial infrastructure and development to the Radstock area, some parts of which also comprise ecological and geological sites of great value. The River Avon valley cuts south-east to north-west with broad flat meadows, wooded sides and busy communication links for people and for wildlife whilst the open water of Chew Valley Lake comprises another link, providing a stop-over point for internationally important populations of migrating wildfowl in Spring and Autumn.

2.4.2 Agricultural Land Use

The Agricultural Land Classification Regional Maps produced by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) provide provisional guidance on agricultural land quality. The South Western Region map indicates that, outside of the urban districts of Bath, Keynsham Saltford and Midsomer Norton, the agricultural land is generally Grade 3. There are some areas of Grade 1 land in the west of the District, extending from north of Nempnett Thrubwell, and across the Stanton Drew and Chew Stoke areas. Grade 1 and 2 areas also are represented in West and East Harptree, and around Hallatrow and Clutton.

2.4.3 Service Providers and the Coal Authority

Service providers will be consulted for information on routes of services (telecommunications, gas, electricity and water), drains, adits, culverts, pipelines and filled ground. The Coal Authority will be consulted information on pathways relating to coal mining.


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