19Sep / 2016
The Government has rejected the appeal by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) for contaminated land funding to be restored.
Following the Soil Health Report produced by the committee in June, it advised the government that further action was needed to assist with the already difficult situation faced by local authorities when dealing with contaminated land.
The report warned that neglecting the health of the nation’s soil could lead to environmental consequences such as reduced food security, increased greenhouse gas emissions and greater flood risks. Considering that UK arable and peat soils have seen a significant decline in carbon levels in the past 40 years, the committee urged the government to act now if they hope to manage soil sustainability by 2030.
Historically, government funding for the treatment and remediation of contaminated soil was available to local authorities in the form of contaminated land capital grants. Funding peaked at £17.5m in 2009-10 and then fell to £2m in 2013-14. It dropped further to £0.5m in 2014 with a plan to phase the grants out completely by 2017.
In June, Mary Creagh, MP for Wakefield and chair of the EAC stated, ‘Soil is a Cinderella environmental issue. It doesn’t receive as much attention as air pollution, water quality or climate change. But, whether we realise it or not, society relies on healthy soil for the food we eat, for flood prevention, and for storing carbon.’
A similar message came from the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) earlier this year through their ‘Brownfield First – Making Better Use of our Land’ report championing the need for more sustainable development on brownfield sites.
At the time of issue, statistics from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) suggested that there is in excess of 60 000 ha of brownfield land in England, with figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG – 2010) advising that 35 000 ha of this land is suitable for housing development. EIC members similarly looked to the Government for support of the brownfield sector.
The decision to not reinstate land grants could lead to areas of low land value being overlooked in favour of high value locations where there is a clear incentive for developers to invest in a clean-up. The UK will also miss out on extensive amounts of land which could be used for new housing developments and reduce pressure to build on the green belt.
Read the Soil Health Report in full here.
Read more about ‘Brownfield First – Making Better Use of our Land’ here.