Developers are facing swingeing penalties for damaging the environment, a legal expert has warned.
Rachael Histed, an associate in the Birmingham office of law firm DLA Piper, also cautioned that clearing up the mess could cost firms dear.
Her comments follow the introduction of the Environmental Damage (Prevention and Remediation) Regulations 2009, which came into force earlier this year.
She said: “The regulations represent a major change in environmental protection, creating a regime under which potential liabilities for ‘environmental damage’ go far beyond those arising previously.
“The new regime focuses on the most serious incidents. Therefore, it is unlikely to apply often, but when it does the costs could be enormous.
“The real financial threat is from the costs of remediation. The regulations significantly extend protection to biodiversity and so this is where the biggest impact will be felt.”
An operator must take all practicable steps to prevent environmental damage; must notify the enforcing authority in the event of such damage; and must comply with any notice served on it by the authority.
The authority must establish whether environmental damage has occurred and serve a remediation notice on the operator whose activity was the cause, even if not the sole cause.
Ms Histed said: “The requirements are much more comprehensive for damage to water or species/habitats than they are for damage to land.”