Role of planning authorities
A key responsibility of the planning authority is to ensure that a site is suitable for its intended use and does not pose an unacceptable risk to human health or the environment, taking into account the proposed use of the site.
Current planning process
Where a sensitive use is proposed, the use of independent site contamination auditors, accredited by the EPA, is required to assess and provide an expert opinion on the suitability of a site for the intended use, where site contamination exists or a contaminating activity has occurred.
A sensitive use, in relation to site contamination, involves a residential use (including all forms of residential use including medium and high density developments, retirement villages), a pre-school (including childcare centres) or a primary school.
The EPA expects planning authorities, developers and landowners to accept and implement the opinion of an auditor as provided in a Site Contamination Audit Report and Site Contamination Audit Statement.
For the development or continuation of an existing commercial, industrial or similar use, assessment by an experienced site contamination consultant should generally be acceptable.
The consultant's report however, should state that the site assessment has been carried out taking into account the Site Contamination NEPM and EPA guidelinesand should provide definitive statements that, in regard to site contamination, the site does not pose unacceptable risks to human health and the environment taking into account the intended use(s).
Where the consultant's report is not considered to satisfy this, then an auditor may need to be engaged to undertake an independent review of the consultant's report and an audit of the site.
Planning authorities, developers and landowners are reminded that evidence of, or reasonable suspicion of, site contamination is necessary to justify the assessment and independent auditing of a site.