Manchester Site Investigation: Contamination Risks and the Need for Remediation


Manchester's industrial success can be largely attributed to its textile industry, particularly cotton. The city was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution and became a leading centre for cotton spinning and weaving. Cotton mills and warehouses dotted the cityscape, and Manchester became a hub for the cotton trade, both domestically and internationally.

Alongside textiles, Manchester excelled in engineering and machinery manufacturing. The city became renowned for its production of steam engines, locomotives, and other industrial machinery. Companies like Beyer, Peacock & Co. and Richard Hornsby & Sons were prominent manufacturers during this period.

Manchester's industrial growth was supported by the development of transport infrastructure becoming a vital hub for railways, which facilitated the movement of goods and people, connecting Manchester to other industrial centres in the region and beyond.

This industrial activity that contributed to the economic growth of the region, has also resulted in the localised accumulation of contamination within soil and water, with pollutants such as heavy metals, hydrocarbons and asbestos.

Manchester’s rich industrial heritage is still evident throughout the city, with many of the historic industrial buildings being repurposed for commercial, residential, and cultural uses, contributing to the city's unique character.

Where there is the potential for contamination to be present in the environment there are significant environmental challenges for stakeholders striving to redevelop these sites as they often require extensive investigation and remediation works to address the issues.

Contamination Risks in Manchester

Manchester's industrial legacy has the potential to have impacted localised sites with residual contamination, which may represent a significant risk to human health and the wider environment. Some common contaminants include:

  • Heavy metals - such as lead, cadmium, and mercury, which can accumulate in soil and water and can cause neurological and developmental damage in humans and animals;
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons(PAHs) - which are released by the burning of fossil fuels and other organic matter and can cause cancer in humans and animals;
  • Asbestos - which was widely used in construction materials prior to being banned in 1999 and can cause lung cancer and other respiratory diseases; and
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) - which are released by the use of solvents and fuels and can cause respiratory and neurological damage in humans.

The Requirement for Site Investigations and Remediation Strategies in Manchester

In light of the potential contamination risks in Manchester, it's essential to conduct thorough site assessments to identify the requirement for remediation to protect human health and other sensitive receptors. Roberts Environmental provides a range of services to support this process, including:

  • Phase I Desk Studies: A preliminary evaluation, including historic use and environmental setting to develop a Conceptual Site Model, which would include the identification of potential sources and pathways of contamination, and assess the potential risk to current and future receptors. The information can be used to determine an appropriate scope and budget cost for further investigation works;
  • Phase 2 Ground Investigations: A more in-depth investigation that includes sampling and testing to confirm the presence, extent, and risks of contamination, and to identify potential remediation options;
  • Remediation Strategies: A detailed plan that outlines the most appropriate and cost-effective methods to clean up and mitigate the risks associated with contaminated land, based on the results of the site investigation;
  • Validation Reporting: A report that confirms that the remediation has been successful and that the land is safe for its intended use, typically based on soil testing and analysis, and meeting regulatory requirements; and
  • Material Management Plans: Define how materials will be handled during earthworks and remediation projects, including the types of materials, their storage, transportation, and disposal. They aim to minimise waste, reduce environmental impacts, and promote efficient use of resources while meeting regulatory requirements.

Brownfield Development and Environmental Protection in Manchester

Manchester has ambitious plans to deliver on future development across urban areas which will incorporate brownfield redevelopment, which supports sustainable land use and aligns with Manchester City Council’s Core Strategy,  local authority strategy and national planning policy. However, there are significant environmental and geotechnical risks associated with redeveloping contaminated sites. Regulatory authorities require a comprehensive assessment of the potential contamination, which includes a range of risk assessments as noted above to ensure that future occupants will not be exposed to potential hazards.

At Roberts Environmental, we work closely with developers, local authorities, and other stakeholders to ensure that environmental factors are taken into account throughout the planning and development process. Drawing on our in-depth knowledge of the region, we use the most appropriate techniques when designing Geo-Environmental Assessments in Manchester and surrounding areas. Our aim is to obtain the necessary information to meet regulatory requirements, inform future development plans and ensure the commercial viability of the development.


Manchester's industrial legacy has left behind a legacy of environmental contamination that continues to pose significant risks to human health and the environment. Roberts Environmental's services can support site owners, investors and developers in managing these risks, including geo-environmental assessments, remediation strategies, and site investigation. By working together, we can protect Manchester's environment, ensure the commercial success of your project and enable sustainable development for future generations.

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For further information on how we can assist you with Geo-Environmental Assessments please do not hesitate to contact us on 0191 230 4521 or email:

1 Croft Stairs
Newcastle Upon Tyne

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