24 November 1995

Who pays for clean-up?

LANDOWNERS should not be forced to pay the full costs of cleaning up past land contamination, says the Country Landowners Association.

"Where an innocent purchaser of land is concerned, his liability for clean-up under the new Environment Act should be limited to the value of that land after it has been cleaned up," Julia Pollock, CLA legal adviser, told a Suffolk seminar.

Susan Jarvis, of Woodbridge solicitors Lightfoot OBrien, warned that the Act, which becomes law next spring, imposes a duty on local authorities to identify contaminated land and an appropriate person on whom to serve a notice.

"If the polluter cannot be found the notice can be served on the current owner or occupier who may be entirely innocent," she said.

With soil washing costs of up to £120/t landowners could find themselves with an expensive clean-up bill.

But surveys could be carried out and any pre-1991 insurance policies covering contamination liability retained, she advised. Land buyers should also protect themselves by seeking appropriate warranties in the contract. &#42