Contaminated Land on the Coast


Whilst we have no formally registered Contaminated Land sites along our coastline, we do have many sites holding land contamination which are of concern because of their historic land uses. Land uses of concern include former landfill sites, industrial sites with chemical storage, bone works etc. Historically, landfill sites were often located near the coastline, occasionally to raise the land so it could be reclaimed for other uses. Unfortunately this historical legacy can cause problems, as erosion or flooding of these sites could cause pollution to the environment, particularly within the harbours, thereby affecting the water quality.

We have a good understanding of where these land contamination sites are located, however, what is inside the site is not always known, unless intrusive investigations have been undertaken.  The Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership has recently completed intrusive investigations of some of our key sites of concern, to determine whether they contain pollutants, and if so, in what quantity. 

Flood and Coastal Erosion Problem

There are a number of old landfill sites across the Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership frontage that have previously been protected from the sea, but are now eroding due to the age of the original protection structure and sea level rise. The nature of the problem is long-term as it is likely that the landfill sites contain some of the early plastics.  Given that these can take hundreds of years to biodegrade, it will be necessary to continue to contain the sites for the foreseeable future, as removal is very unlikely to be a feasible option. There is therefore a need for a long-term plan that is technically feasible and affordable.  The Shoreline Management Plans and Coastal Strategies form the basis of this plan, however at present, as far as protection of landfill is concerned, they are aspirational as there is no appropriate funding mechanism.  Given that the landfill sites are often undeveloped, they do not qualify for the usual route of obtaining funding from central government (FDGiA).  A large number of the sites are owned by the Local Authorities for which coastal protection could be compromised unless alternative funding sources are identified.

Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership study

The Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership have been pro-active in recognising this issue and have undertaken a small, in-house study using guidance from the recent CIRIA publication. To see the publication please click here: Managing Landfill Sites and Land Contamination on eroding or low-lying coastlines.

This was in collaboration with Tim Kermode (, formerly from the Environment Agency, who investigated the possible funding sources .

The study mapped all known landfill sites across the region using a Geographical Information System.  A workshop was held with the contaminated land officers from Fareham Borough Council, Gosport Borough Council, Portsmouth City Council and Havant Borough Council to prioritise the sites most at risk in terms of flooding and erosion and severity of the hazard (nature of potential land contamination) where known. 

Other related studies                                                                                          

SCOPAC have awarded funding to the Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership to extend this approach to cover the coastline from Lyme Regis, Dorset to Shoreham-by-sea, West Sussex starting in 2016.  It would appear that with current rules, obtaining funding to protect these landfill sites will be difficult, but a well-researched, robust investigation will assess the adequacy of existing funding mechanisms and seek to recommend future options’ with SCOPAC’s support.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

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