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18 August 2017

Land owners warned of latest pollution burden

Land owners may find themselves responsible for pollution they did not cause, after a controversial ruling found one local authority could not be held liable.

Judges at the Court of Appeal have decided Powys County Council are not liable for landfill waste on a farm despite taking on liability for waste collection in the area following local authority reorganisation.

Environmental consultants warn this could open the floodgates for Contaminated Land Liabilities to be passed on to current and future land owners.

Potential buyers are being urged to ensure correct land contamination due diligence is undertaken before buying land.

Former council, the Borough of Brecknock, had agreed to clear the waste in a series of licences in the 1970s, prior to the formation of Powys County Council on April 1, 1996.

However, Lord Justices Lloyd Jones, Hamblen and Hickinbottom overruled a High Court decision that Powys assumes the responsibility for the former landfill site from its predecessors.

The authority will no longer be required to restore the site to agricultural land.

"Now there is potentially greater risk for landowners or occupiers that they may find themselves responsible for pollution they did not cause, simply because they own or occupy the land," said Jaime Bainbridge, an environmental auditor.

Businesses could also use the precedent to fight liability cases if they have been through restructuring in the past.

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