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Contaminated Land: The Phase 1 Desk Study

contaminated land

More and more Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) now request a contaminated land Phase 1 Desk Study. This is for potential land contamination as part of the validation of a planning application.

The UK has a rich industrial heritage and, with environmental and human health protection continuously playing catch up, it is therefore inevitable that there are many sites with some form of contamination legacy.

With the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which built on previous regulatory schemes, there has been a significant push towards to the use of brownfield land for new developments to meet the housing shortage. This has increased the likelihood that new residences will be placed on sites that have some form of contaminative legacy.

The Phase 1 Desk Study is the first step in this assessment process. The objective is to determine if there is any potential for risks to be posed to end users and the environment (amongst other receptors). If there is a potential risk, the Desk Study should then provide information on the next steps. This typically requires some form of intrusive investigation; and the Desk Study should identify the objectives of such an investigation.

The Desk Study typically takes the following points into account:

  • Geology.
  • Current and past land uses on and nearby the site.
  • Environmental constraints.
  • Environmental permits and licences.
  • A site walkover to verify information and explore specific issues.
  • Past reports / information related to the site.
  • The proposals for the end use.

This information is then detailed in the Desk Study report. A summary is then produced, along with a Conceptual Site Model (CSM) and Preliminary Risk Assessment. Advice is then provided on the next steps, such as a Phase 2 Site / Ground Investigation.

The Phase 1 Desk Study can be quite a large document (file size of up to and over 30MB) – worth bearing in mind if you plan to upload it to the planning portal! We’re working on a way to easily manage this – get in touch if you’d like to know more.

agb Environmental has significant experience in preparing Phase 1 Desk Studies for contaminated land, along with undertaking site / ground investigations for contamination and geotechnical requirements. To discuss whether your project will require a Phase 1 Desk Study, please contact Principal Consultant, Simon Pike on 01638 66326 (Newmarket Office) or email

Contaminated Land, News