Developing a contaminated land use strategy

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Courtesy of Landmark Information Group

Landmark's Historical Map and Land Use datasets are invaluable for the identification of potentially contaminated land as part of the 1995 Environment Act.

The challenge:
Part IIa of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 makes local authorities responsible for the identification of historically contaminated land, which poses a threat to human health or to the environment, within their jurisdiction and for enforcing the remediation of identified sites.

Local authorities were required to develop and publish a strategic approach to the identification of contaminated land. This strategy had to indicate how the local authority would identify potentially contaminated areas and how these would be prioritised to be assessed in more detail. The identification had to be done using information gathered by the local authority and information sourced from other regulatory bodies, organisations or individuals.

The solution:
Landmark's extensive and unique digital archive of historical maps covers the whole of Great Britain and gives a complete step-by-step picture of the land use changes that have taken place between the 1840s and the 1990s.

The archive was created as a joint venture between Landmark and Ordnance Survey, by digitising Ordnance Survey's entire archive of paper maps, and now contains one million maps, which are geo-referenced to the National Grid and can be loaded into any standard GIS.

Using the Department of Environment guidelines set out within the legislation, Landmark has systematically analysed the Historical Map Data, at 1:10 506 and 1:10 000, for 67 types of industrial and geographical land uses to create a unique, comprehensive database of Historical Land Uses from the 1840s to the 1990s. Areas of potentially infilled land have also been plotted to produce the most comprehensive graphical description of pre-authorisation landfills available.

This Land Use Data provides a series of point, polygon and line images, which can be imported into all standard GIS and layered onto current or historical mapping.

Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council purchased Landmark's data for their area and was able to identify over 2,800 sites of potential contaminative risk.

Using the Data:

  • The Historical Land Use Data was loaded into MapInfo GIS where it was overlaid onto modern digital mapping and the database examined to prioritise sites.
  • Sites were then linked to other data, such as planning applications, sensitive sites and authority zoning. Sites with a 'Significant Pollutant Linkage', as defined within the legislation, were then identified.
  • Once sites were identified, the site history was examined in more detail using local records, trade information and large-scale Historical Map Data.
  • Once all records were examined, key sites for inspection were identified from hundreds of potential problem sites.

The Benefits:

  • The data is accurately positioned to modern geography so it can be easily overlaid onto modern current and aerial photography.
  • Easily operated by non GIS Specialists.
  • Can be used in conjunction with other datasets.
  • The data can also be used for other projects such as Housing Stock Transfers, helping planners identify changes in land use and development, accurately plotting rights of ways, paths and boundaries and as an education tool.
  • The data can also be made available to the public for historical research and genealogy.

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