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Costs of contamination

Motor retailers and repairers will face costly remediation work when selling their property for redevelopment if they fail to ensure their land is kept free of contamination.

Motor trade property specialists are warning that garages which have failed to take a responsible attitude to waste can face difficulty selling their redundant workshops and dealerships. Although fuel storage and hazardous waste regulations are much tighter now – since September all oil storage tanks must have a secondary containment system, such as a drip tray – some former motor trade sites sold for redevelopment continue to be affected by contamination.

“This tends to be more of a concern to the dealer selling the property than to the purchaser,” says Ian Bingham of chartered surveyor Caxtons.

“There are specialist contractors that can be brought in to clear the contaminated land, but ultimately it is likely to make the site less attractive to prospective buyers, will delay the redevelopment project and can have an impact on the property’s value.”

This is partly because the need for remediation work can cause problems for a redeveloper in securing lending to finance the project. Consultants argue it can be difficult to accurately value a site if it is contaminated.

“Dealers need to be conscious of how they can operate their site in order to keep it as clean and tidy as possible, to reduce the potential contamination,” says Bingham. “The ones likely to get burned the most are the small operators, the owner drivers who could be sitting on a problem which will cost them thousands of pounds to put right when they sell.

The Department of the Environment has published a profile on the vehicle repair industry, which highlights the potential risks of ground contaminants at garages. Among the most common are ethylene glycol and methanol from anti-freeze fluids, polymerized glycols and ethers from brake fluid, used oils, solvents containing chlorinated hydrocarbons and solvent-based paints.

The DoE says it is “most unlikely” that any one site will contain all the contaminants, but checks are recommended.

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