Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

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More construction guidance in alphabetical order

Additional resources


Video Case Study: Good Environmental Practice on a Construction Site

What you must do

There may be conditions attached to the planning consent for your development that relate to archaeology. If you are a site owner or occupier, check your planning consent.

If you find archaeological features

In Northern Ireland any archaeological finds must be reported within 14 days to either the:

  • Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) Built Heritage Division
  • Ulster Museum
  • the Police

You will also need to give details of where and how the object was found.

NIEA: Built Heritage Division

In Scotland if you uncover archaeological features, you must stop work and contact the local planning authority and local council archaeologist immediately.

Association of Local Government Archaeological Services (ALGAO)

If you find human skeletal remains or evidence of a burial ground, stop work in that area. The main contractor or person in charge of the site should contact the Police immediately. The police will contact the Coroner or in Scotland, the Procurator Fiscal and the local council archaeologist if required.

Archaeological watching brief

In Northern Ireland, the archaeologist directing archaeological works on your behalf must work to a programme agreed under the planning conditions and licensed under the Historic Monuments and Archaeological Objects (NI) Order 1995.

NIEA: Protecting Historic Monuments & Buildings, Archaeological Objects & Wrecks

In Scotland if your working area is subject to an archaeological watching brief you must liaise and cooperate with the archaeological contractor who is to oversee your works.

Good practice

Before you start work, check if your site contains protected archaeology or listed buildings. You can do this by contacting:

  • the Northern Ireland Environment Agency – Built Heritage Division.
  • the local council archaeologist in Scotland

In Scotland, you can find out if a building is listed or is a Scheduled Ancient monument by using Pastmap.


If you are working as a sub-contractor, check with the client or main contractor if there are archaeologically sensitive areas on your site that will need to be excavated before you start work or if there are areas of the site that you must not enter.

Identify listed buildings in the area surrounding your works. Building foundations can be susceptible to vibration or ground settlement caused by adjacent deep excavations, tunnelling, piling or heavy traffic movements.

What you must do

Always check that a site investigation and risk assessment has been carried out with regard to potential contamination on the site and that it follows Environment Agency guidance CLR11.

GOV.UK: Model procedures for the management of land contamination (CLR11)

Before you start work

The client should, through the project health and safety file, supply you with information on any contaminants that may be present on the site on which you will be working.

This may be in the form of a site investigation. If a site investigation does not exist, you may need to arrange one.

Site investigation and sampling to assess contamination.

Consult the local planning authority

The planning consent for the site may list conditions relating to the redevelopment of the site that you need to comply with.

In Northern Ireland advice is provided on land contamination via the planning process, managed by DOE Planning.

Northern Ireland: DOE Planning

In Northern Ireland provisions to deal with contaminated land have been produced but are not yet in force. When they come into force, it is likely that these regulations will be similar to those in England, Scotland and Wales. The development of sites affected by contamination is currently regulated by DOE Planning, with advice from NIEA and Environmental Health and through Building Regulations enforced by the Department of Finance and Personnel's (DFPNI).

DFPNI technical booklet: Site preparation (Adobe PDF - 741KB)

In Scotland, Planning Advice Note PAN 33 provides information on land contamination as part of the planning process.

Scotland: Development of Contaminated Land

Check that contaminants have been dealt with

Always check with the client or the designers of the building or structure that the presence of land contamination, and the potential for causing pollution and risks to human health and the environment, have been assessed and taken into consideration during the design stage.

Ensure that all actions required by regulators have been completed before any works start.

You may be held liable, regardless of whether or not you are supplied with information on contaminants in the land, if your actions lead to contaminants present on the site causing water pollution or risks to human health or the environment.

Where contamination is present, poorly designed and installed structures could introduce pathways by which contaminants can migrate into water-bearing soil or rock layers, surface water or present risks to human health and the environment.

If material excavated on your site is suitable – in terms of engineering properties, health and environmental considerations – you may be able to reuse it as part of the development. For information on the licensing requirements associated with the reuse of contaminated material, please contact your local environmental regulator.

If the material is not suitable for use, it will need to be removed from site.

Plan and prepare the site

Make sure that you plan your site so that you can separate contaminated materials from non-contaminated materials, and that you can store them without risk of pollution. Contaminated materials may need to be stored in a particular way, for example to prevent contaminants from leaching into the ground or into watercourses in the area where the contaminated material is being stored. Drainage from such storage areas may need to be contained or treated.

If you discover any unexpected materials during your work, stop work until the materials have been adequately identified. Examples of such materials include:

  • buried drums, tanks, pipework or containers
  • soil or water with colour or odour
  • non-natural materials and wastes
  • other evidence of contamination, for example iridescent sheens (like oil or diesel) on soil or water.

Identify actions to manage any contaminated materials found and refer to the following guidance

SEPA: Land Remediation and Waste Management Guidelines

SEPA: Planning Guidance on Land Subject to Contamination Issues

Include the need to stop work and identify potential contaminants in your method statements and site induction so that everyone working on site knows what to do.

Ensure actions identified to deal with contaminated materials are agreed and carried out before work restarts.

Dispose of contaminated material

Material that you excavate on site and are not able to use will most likely be removed from the site. This material is considered to be waste and you must remove it in accordance with the Duty of Care and hazardous/special waste regulations.

One of the requirements of the duty of care is that you must provide a full and accurate description of any waste that you remove, for onwards transfer.

To satisfy this requirement, on your waste transfer note, you may have to supply laboratory-testing information. Consult the European Waste Catalogue and WM3 to see if the type of waste that you are disposing of is listed as Hazardous Waste.

Hazardous Waste - Consolidated List of Waste (see Appendix A)

Hazardous Waste - Interpretation of the definition and classification of hazardous waste

Duty of care - your waste responsibilities

If the type of waste that you are disposing of is not listed in the European Waste Catalogue or there is any suspicion that the material may be contaminated you will need to undertake the three tests set out in WM3.

Technical Guidance WM3: Guidance on the classification and assessment of waste (2015)

This information will help you to decide on the best disposal route for the material. You will need to speak to your waste haulier to establish the best disposal option for any waste material.

All hazardous or special wastes must be pre-treated before being landfilled. See our guidance on sending waste to landfill.

Review the health and safety file and any desk study and site investigation information that you have. Ensure that all associated risks to health and the environment are determined and that control measures to address those risks are identified and put in place prior to any land being disturbed. If you are not able to make sense of this information, you will need to go to an expert for advice.

In Scotland information about animal burial pits (eg anthrax or foot and mouth) in or close to your working area can be obtained from Animal Health.

Animal Health

If you excavate buried livestock you are responsible for its correct disposal. For advice you should contact the National Fallen Stock Scheme by calling 0845 054 8888.

National Fallen Stock Scheme

DAERA: Fallen animals – advice for animal owners

If your business installs and maintains sewerage systems such as sewers, drains and septic tanks, you may carry out activities such as excavating and installing pipework. These could have a significant impact on the environment.

What you must do

If your business installs septic tanks, cesspools or package treatment plants read the pollution prevention guidance on treatment and disposal of sewage where no public foul sewer is available (GPP 4).

GPP 4 provides guidance on:

  • selecting the best option for treatment and disposal
  • calculating the right size for the sewage treatment system
  • operating and maintaining the sewage treatment system
  • consent and land use planning requirements.

 GPP4 Disposal of sewage where no foul sewer is available

Further information

Northern Ireland Water: Sewer adoption (new development)

Scottish Water: Guide for obtaining new water and waste water services (Adobe PDF - 209KB)

In Scotland, you can also purchase the second edition of Sewers for Scotland. For further information, see the WRC website.

Scottish Water: Sewers for Scotland, third edition

The actual or suspected presence of contaminants in soil and water has significant implications.

Disturbing and handling contaminated materials issues

  • whether excavation of materials might increase movement of contaminants
  • whether intrusive works may allow contamination to migrate into deeper ground particularly through layers of low permeability materials such as clay
  • whether removal of low permeability surfacing such as concrete and tarmac will allow more infiltration into contaminated materials below
  • the removal of any structures containing contaminated materials such as oils.

Design issues

  • whether the design introduces risks to human health or the environment
  • whether the design allows for material excavated on site to be used
  • sulphate contamination in the ground, as this can weaken concrete
  • piling through contaminated ground, as this can create a route for pollutants to enter groundwater.
  • avoiding discharges of surface water into contaminated areas.

Waste management issues

  • whether material excavated on site can be used in the design and needs additional measures
  • how and where excavated material can be disposed of off-site
  • whether excavated material will need to be treated before it can be disposed of or used
  • the cost of treating or disposing of contaminated materials.

Water issues

  • rainwater that is allowed to pass though stockpiles of contaminated material can carry pollutants into the ground below
  • any water that you remove from excavations in contaminated ground could itself be contaminated, and this may require treatment or will affect how you must dispose of it.

Health and safety issues

  • the preparation of your health and safety risk assessments, and consequent work methods, COSHH assessments and the sort of Personal Protective Equipment that you will require need to take into account any contamination present.

Health and Safety Executive: Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) guidance


The following issues are relevant to construction. Use the link below for more general information and details of who to contact.

Nature conservation

What you must do

Invasive weeds on construction sites

Check your building area for evidence of Japanese Knotweed, Giant Hogweed and Himalayan Balsam. If you spread these plants, you could be committing an offence.

Japanese knotweed, giant hogweed and other invasive weeds

Removing trees

Before removing any trees, check with your local council planning department if any or them is protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO).

Removing, pruning, cutting down, lopping, topping or ring barking a tree covered by a TPO will require planning consent. Failure to obtain consent for these activities is a criminal offence.

If your site is in a conservation area the trees will automatically be protected.

Contact your local council

Northern Ireland: Local Councils

Protected species

Protected species such as bats, badgers, newts and nesting birds are common on development sites. Identifying whether you have protected species on your site, deciding what to do and obtaining the correct consents for moving them is a complex process.

Nature conservation

Public rights of way and bridleways

For works that may affect footpaths, cycleways or bridleways, either temporarily or permanently, you will need consent from the local council.

Good practice

BS 42020: Biodiversity. Code of practice for planning and development

This new British Standard 42020 aims to integrate biodiversity into all stages of the planning and development process.

It is of relevance to professionals working in the fields of ecology, land use planning, land management, architecture, civil engineering, landscape architecture, forestry, arboriculture, surveying, building and construction.

BSI: Smart Guide to BS 42020

BSI: BS 42020 Biodiversity. Code of practice for planning and development.

The assessment of land that is contaminated or where contamination is suspected is a complex process. Site investigation and sampling are part of this process and should only be undertaken by those organisations or individuals who are competent, experienced and insured to undertake this type of work.

The information gained by these investigations is very important for:

  • safe design and implementation of site works
  • the design of the development
  • protection of humans and the environment
  • identification of safe disposal routes for contaminated materials
  • determining what environmental permits and authorisations will be required for the site works.

Commissioning a site investigation

If you are commissioning a site investigation for your construction site, make sure it is carried out in accordance with British Standards, best practice and current guidance.

It should include:

  • A desk study including the collection and evaluation of historical information about previous site uses, the sorts of chemicals that could be present, their behaviour and their potential effects on the environment. The desk study is used to decide if further information is needed, and how it will be collected.
  • The collection and testing of samples of soil and water using intrusive methods such as installing boreholes or excavating trial pits.

Intrusive site investigations need to be properly designed to collect the right quality and quantity of information.

Any site investigation must be undertaken in such a way that protects human health and the environment and should be carried out in accordance with:

  • BS5930 - Code of practice for site investigation
  • BS10175 - Code of practice for investigation of potential contaminated land sites.

Any report outlining the results should include a plan of the site showing where the samples were taken.

An accredited laboratory must undertake the analysis of samples taken from the site. Ensure that information on testing processes used and equipment calibration certificates are included in the results document.

Make sure that the laboratory tests run on the samples from the site include appropriate tests for all contaminants identified as likely to be present by the desk study (preliminary risk assessment).

Investigations for contamination can be undertaken separately or with other investigations, such as geotechnical works to collect information for foundation design.

An interpretative report should accompany the results. Specify what you want to use the information for. Use experienced contractors who can use the information that they have obtained to advise you.

Find information about the history of the site

Try to find out if a previous desk study and/or site investigation has been undertaken at the site. If so, try to get a copy of it. This information will need to be reviewed to see if it is suitable and relevant to the design of the proposed investigation. Previous site surveys may give you an indication of what should be included in a site investigation and may give an idea of what results to expect. This is an indication only. Do not rely on historic surveys undertaken by others.

If no information is available about the site, a good desk study and conceptual model are required prior to designing the site works.

Your local council Environmental Health Department or environmental regulator may hold information about the history of the site.

Northern Ireland: DAERA - Contaminated land

Scotland: SEPA contaminated land

Carry out a soil survey

If you need to restore the site you are working on to its original condition, carry out a site survey before you start work to provide a detailed record of the soils present and their locations.

In your method statement, set out:

  • your intended soil stripping depth
  • ways that you will separate and keep different soils apart
  • methods that you will use to handle the soil (taking into account the weather)
  • the location and height of soil storage mounds and how long they will be present
  • how uncontaminated and contaminated materials will be kept separate
  • proposals for reinstating soils.

If appropriate, you must commit to undertake any necessary restoration works, for example soil loosening, that are identified by an assessment of soil condition after reinstatement.

Prevent water pollution

Controlling surface water run-off

Dealing with silty water

Get consent to remove soil

In Scotland the stripping and removal of topsoil is subject to various controls. You must have planning permission to remove for sale, more than five cubic yards of surface soil from agricultural land in any three-month period.

Although this does not apply in Northern Ireland the stripping and removal of topsoil may be subject to other controls. Consult the Planning Service for more information.

Northern Ireland: DOE Planning

The Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland and the Roads Authority in Scotland have the power to serve you with a notice that requires you to take action to prevent soil from that land being washed onto any roads next to your site.

Make sure you take all possible steps to prevent soil being washed off your site.

Further information

Northern Ireland Environment Agency: Guidance on the regulation of greenfield soil (Adobe PDF - 625KB)

SEPA: Promoting the sustainable use of greenfield soils

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  • Guidance from your environmental regulator

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