Contaminated Land Inspection Strategy

The large amount of information compiled by B&NES Council in its Inspection Strategy and subsequent work will require an efficient information management system. In this section of the strategy, the proposed method for handling this information is detailed.

7.1 General Principles

The Environmental Information Regulations detail the nature and extent of environmental information which can be disclosed once requested.

Knowledge of this legislation is of paramount importance during the contaminated land process to ensure that information provided to both the public and commercial agencies is appropriate.

7.2 Information Content

7.2.1  Public Register of Contaminated Land

Under EPA 1990[9], the Council is required to maintain a Public Register of Contaminated Land. The contents are specified in the Regulations and include the following: -

* Remediation notices

* Appeals against remediation notices

* Remediation declarations

* Remediation statements

* Appeals against charging notices

* Designation of Special Sites

* Notification of claimed remediation

* Convictions for offences[10]

* Guidance issued[11]

* Other environmental controls

This information will be available for public inspection subject to any exclusion, for example, on the grounds of national security or commercial confidentiality. Appropriate legislation and guidance from DEFRA will be followed in respect of the details included on the Register and access provisions.

The Register will not include details of historic land use and other records used in the investigation of potentially contaminated land. These are research documents and as such need not be made available to the public.

The Register will be held by Environmental Protection, at the Council’s offices at 9-10 Bath Street, Bath. It will be in electronic format and be accessible on request, at no charge, by members of the public during normal office hours.

It is anticipated that a specific question relating to the Public Register and remediation notices will be included in the near future on the form CON.29.

7.2.2  Other Information

Under the requirements of EPA 1990, a local authority is given the duty of producing a written record of any determination that a site has been classified as ‘statutory contaminated’. Information to be included in such a record is deemed to be:

* a description of the significant pollutant linkage which has been identified;

* a summary of evidence upon which the determination has been based; and

* a summary of the method by which the local authority considers that the requirements for the determination of contaminated land have been satisfied.

[9] Section 78R(1)

[10] Section 78M

[11] Section 78V(1)


7.3 Information Storage

The following records will be maintained:

* Sources of information identified and reviewed

* Decisions made following review of information and records

* Details of liaison with other departments and organisations

* Responses to information provided by members of the public

The information and record management system selected will satisfy the following criteria:

* Be transparent

* Have security of access and editing

* Record details of information providers and reviewers

* Have methods of ensuring that there is no duplication of information

* Have check systems which ensure that all relevant information is reviewed for all areas

* Have a clear audit trail for quality assurance purposes

At this stage it is possible to state that the information and record management system adopted will be primarily developed within the Council’s GIS with procedures in place to ensure that the criteria noted above are met. It is envisaged that certain information, for example, site investigation reports, will have to be held in a separate paper filing system.

All information collected during the detailed inspection process will be maintained on the Council’s contaminated land database with previously collated information from the initial inspection and prioritisation.

Information provided by members of the public will be dealt with through the Environmental Protection’s existing Uniform service request procedure for recording information. Each case is allocated a unique reference number and this will be used to cross-reference the information to the specific site in question.

The existing system allows for the setting of a response time, and allocates all relevant cases to the Contaminated Land Officer. It will also provide the necessary level of data management. The current system is supported by paper based service request sheets, this particular area may need to be modified in order to allow for the development of a computerised system linked to the GIS.

7.4 Administration

Administrative requirements to support the Strategy and its information gathering processes, for example, the development of computer-led databases and contaminated land registers, will be the responsibility of the Contaminated Land Officer, and Environmental Health Officers once the Contaminated Land Officer’s contract has expired.

7.5 Use by Other Local Authority Departments

The Uniform database is accessible by all sections within Environmental and Consumer Services, and all other Local Authority departments with the appropriate computer software installed. The GIS and associated database will also be made available to all departments, when in place.

7.6 Confidentiality of Information

EPA 1990 prescribes instances where certain details shall be excluded from general public register information where it meets the following criteria:

* The inclusion of such information would be against the interests of national security; and/or

* The information relates to the affairs of any individual or business and is commercially confidential to that individual or the person carrying on that business.

In line with current protocol adopted for public registers, applicable to Prescribed Processes under Part I of the EPA 1990, any information excluded from a public register on grounds of commercial confidentiality will be labelled as such and held separately. In addition, where information is withheld from the public domain it will be clearly indicated within the Register that this is the case.

7.7 Arrangements for Access to Information and Dealing with Requirements for Information

Under the Environmental Information Regulations 1992, certain information must be provided by the Local Authority to members of the public and any other interested parties.

The Local Authority intends to maintain its policy of transparency when dealing with contaminated land issues. At the same time, information released by the Council will be clear and appropriate, so as to not inadvertently blight or devalue any site.

Appendix E: Contact Details and Procedure for Complaints Concerning Potentially Contaminated Land, details the procedure for the provision of information relating to contaminated land.

It is also envisaged that requests will be made for access to information relating to the review process, for example, information on whether land has been inspected and details of any site investigation reports prepared. It is our intention that the release of information will be carefully controlled until the review process is complete, as risk factors may change as we proceed through the process. The early release of information may also lead to a level of incomplete information being released to third parties. Legal opinion will be sought where necessary to avoid any breach of the Environmental Information Regulations.

7.7.1   Charging

Due to the volume of requests for environmental information made by the public and businesses, Environmental and Consumer Services is to introduce a charge to cover officer time in replying to the requests. This charge will be applied where environmental information is requested under the Contaminated Land Regime if estimated to require more than 15 minutes of officer time to produce.

7.8  Provision of Information to the Environment Agency

EPA 1990[12] requires local authorities to provide the Environment Agency with the information necessary to write and publish an annual report on the State of Contaminated Land in England.

The Environment Agency has created some standard forms to provide information to the Agency. Form 1 is to be completed when a site is determined and to be submitted to the Agency with the record of determination. Form 2 is to be completed when either a remediation notice is served or a remediation statement or declaration submitted. Form 3 is to be submitted annually to indicate where enforcement action has been taken. B&NES agrees to use these forms for the purpose for which they are intended.

[12] Section 78U(2)


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