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Part 5 - Baseline Characterisation


1 Introduction


1.1 Provisions of the Contaminated Land Regime

In developing a strategy for contaminated land, each Local Authority is required to include a certain amount of baseline information to characterise their particular area and ensure that their individual approach reflects local circumstances.

Chapter B, Sections B10 and B15 of the DETR Circular 02/2000 provides the following technical guidance on how each Authority might comply with the statutory requirements of the contaminated land regime. These sections state the following:

B10. In developing this strategic approach the local authority should reflect local circumstances. In particular it should consider:

  1. any available evidence that significant harm or pollution of controlled waters is actually being caused;
  2. the extent to which any receptor (which is either of a type listed in Table A in Chapter A or is controlled waters) is likely to be found in any of the different parts of the authority's area;
  3. the extent to which any of those receptors is likely to be exposed to a contaminant (as defined in Chapter A), for example as a result of the land or of the geological and hydrogeological features of the area;
  4. the extent to which information on land contamination is already available;
  5. the history, scale and nature of industrial or other activities which may have contaminated the land in different parts of it's area;
  6. the nature and timing of past redevelopment in different parts of its area;
  7. the extent to which remedial action has already been taken by the authority or others to deal with land-contamination problems or is likely to be taken as part of the impending redevelopment, and
  8. the extent to which other regulatory authorities are likely to be considering the possibility of harm being caused to particular receptors or the likelihood of any pollution of controlled waters being caused in particular parts of the local authority's area.

B15 Strategies are likely to vary both between authorities and between different parts of an authority's area, reflecting the different problems associated with land contamination in different areas. The local authority should include in its strategy.

  1. a description of the particular characteristics of its area and how that influences its approach;

The DETR Contaminated Land Inspection Strategies: Technical Advice for Local Authorities (draft) document, lists information categories that Authorities may find of value when describing and in considering the appropriate strategic approach for their area. The following categories are identified.

Background information and local authority characteristics:

  • Geographical location
  • Brief description/history
  • Size (hectares)
  • Population distribution
  • Current land use characteristics
  • Details of authority ownership of land
  • Location and status of protected organisms/ecosystems
  • Key property types e.g. ancient monuments
  • Key water resource/protection issues
  • Known information on contamination
  • Current and past industrial histories
  • Broad geological/hydrological characteristics
  • Specific local features (e.g. areas of naturally metal enriched soils)
  • Redevelopment history and controls
  • Action already taken to deal with contamination


1.2 Tameside: An Overview


Geographic Location

Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council is situated in Greater Manchester within the North West Region of England (see Figure 4). The Geographical extent of the Borough extends from Manchester City in the west to the High Peak in the east and Oldham to the north and Stockport Metropolitan Borough to the South.

Tameside Borough/ Population

Tameside Metropolitan Borough was created in 1974 from the urban areas (formerly nine district councils) of: Ashton-under-Lyne, Audenshaw, Denton, Droylsden, Dukinfield, Hyde, Mossley, Stalybridge and the predominantly rural Longdendale villages (Broadbottom, Hollingworth and Mottram). Tameside is roughly eight miles across, with just under a quarter of a million people settled in its 40 square miles.


Flat low-lying plains, largely developed for industrial and residential usage, form the central and western part of the Borough. The rural east of the Borough is dominated by the Pennines, which rises steeply forming the western extent of the Peak District. Elevations range from around 300 feet in the west of the borough to 1600 feet on the Pennines.

Some of the most prominent features of the landscape are the incised river valleys of the Medlock, Tame and Etherow which run through or along the borders of the Borough from north east to south west, and the steep Pennine foothills to the east.

2 Current Land Use


2.1 Introduction

The following existing land uses are considered to be important by reason of their wide distribution within the Borough, sensitivity and/or potential association with contamination. The following table identifies the potential role of the following land uses receptors, pathways and potential sources of contamination.

Land Use Receptor Pathway Source of Contamination
Residential P   P
Institutional and Civic P   P
Industrial P   P
Commercial P   P
Agricultural P   P
Open Space and Recreation P    
Transport P P P
Statutory undertakers P P P
Note: P = land use potentially comprises a receptor, potential pathway or potential source of contamination.


2.2 Residential Land Use

After open land residential land use, including both buildings and associated land, is the second most common land use in Tameside, defining the various urban centres of the borough (see Figure 5d). In 1996 there where approximately 90,000 households in the Borough.

Most of the Boroughs housing was built during three eras:

  • During the industrial revolution (18th Century)
  • Between the end of the nineteenth - beginning twentieth century, and
  • During the post war boom between 1950's-1970's

Housing types, sizes, ages and tenures are therefore well mixed and widely distributed, a result at least in part of the historical pattern of housing development radiating out from the originally separate towns of the Tameside area, the patchwork of mostly small scale slum clearance and redevelopment which took place until the early 1980's, and the more recent redevelopment of industrial and other urban sites.

More recently, an upward trend of population growth has coincided with a marked upturn in house building activity which, in response to the governments white paper on the development on brown field land (1996) and market forces has resulted in a higher proportion of residential development taking place on land formerly used for industrial purposes. However, as a result of the historical industrial usage in the Borough and the long-term decline of the traditional industries, the redevelopment of former industrial land has been ongoing over the past 150 years, remedial works being undertaken in some but not all cases.

2.3 Institutional and Civic Land Use

Tameside, in common with most urban areas, has a wide range of landholdings in public ownership which are distributed over its entire area. These include public buildings (i.e. police stations, Council Buildings etc.), leisure facilities, parkland, playing fields, amenity areas, schools, hospitals, churches/burial grounds, military establishments etc. The ownership of this land is vested in numerous public bodies, but the unifying factor is that they often have a public service use.

The main land holdings falling into this category are the extensive reclaimed sites mostly found in river valleys where former waste disposal sites, reservoirs or industrial sites have been reclaimed as open space. This is seen in the Medlock and Tame river valleys and in parts of Denton. These areas complement and add significantly to the more traditional parkland areas found in the urban areas.

2.4 Industrial Land Use

The decline of the traditional industries (see Part 5 Section 5) of Tameside has enabled the development of a wider range of manufacturing industries than was the case historically, including food, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and electrical products, as well as clothing and engineering. While a number of new industrial areas have been introduced at various locations in the Borough, industrial development has tended to reuse existing brownfield land.

The main existing industrial areas of Tameside tend to be concentrated along the rivers and major transport routes (canals, railways and more recently the road network), reflecting the historical development of industry in the Borough (see Figure 5e).

2.5 Commercial Land Use

The historic development of Tameside resulted in the emergence of seven distinct town centres all situated within a few miles of each other and serving what would originally have been mostly independent, catchment areas. This pattern has largely survived and therefore, in contrast to some other metropolitan districts, no single centre dominates the pattern of shopping and services in the Borough.

One of the principal changes affecting retailing over the last 20 years has been the increasing dominance of large food stores and other retail units typically moving out of the high street to locations on the edge of centres or near major road junctions. Recently the trend towards decentralisation has widened to include several retail parks and retail outlets, many of which have been built on tracts of brown field land.

2.6 Agriculture Land Use

Tameside is not a major farming district in the region. In 1985 agricultural land covered almost a quarter of Tameside (2,334 hectares) being divided between 99 full time farms and just under 80 part time holdings, mainly situated to the rural east but including Ashton Moss, a substantial area of land in the north west of the Borough. Most of the Borough is of relatively poor quality (Grades 4 and 5), however Ashton Moss to the north west of the Borough is still used, in part, for horticulture and grazing (Grade 2).

The greater proportion of agricultural land of the Borough is given over to Dairy farming (approximately 65% by area), most of the remainder being used for cattle, pigs and poultry (22% by area). The remaining land is utilised for general horticulture and cropping.

2.7 Open Space and Recreation

Approximately 60% of Tameside is open land comprising a variety of landscapes which range from fairly flat, low lying farmland in the west to high barren moors in the east. Only 42% of open land is covered by semi-natural habitats with actual or potential wildlife value approximately 13% of which is covered by some form of ecological designation.

Up until the 1980s/90s the canals of Tameside were in a poor state of repair, however subsequent restoration has brought them back into use for leisure and conservation purposes in the process often removing potential sources of contamination.

In order to check the continued outward growth of the urban areas of the Borough, much of the open land in Tameside is designated green belt in the UDP.

2.8 Transport

The transport network currently comprises a strategic network of motorways, main roads and railways. Major landowners associated with current and past transport networks include:

  • The Highways Agency
  • Tameside MBC
  • Railtrack
  • British Waterways

2.9 Statutory Undertakers

A significant number of services run both under and overland providing power, gas, mains water and communications. The main statutory undertakers in Tameside include:

  • Tameside MBC
  • NORWEB plc
  • Transco North West
  • United Utilities (previously North West Water Ltd, NORWEB Distribution and NORWEB Telecommunications)
  • British Telecommunications plc
  • Fiberway Ltd
  • National Grid
  • Cable and Wireless

In addition, a number of the statutory undertakers listed above are major landowners in the Borough.

3 Tameside Owned Land


3.1 Overview

The Council has a substantial property portfolio comprising both operational and non-operational land and premises. The operational portfolio includes schools, libraries, community centres, depots, day centres, parks, recreation grounds, open space, cemeteries, children's homes, markets, offices, town halls and car parks.

A good deal of non-operational property is held and let to third parties including agricultural, allotments, advertising sites, clubs, car parks, commercial land, chief rents, land for community use, gardens, garage sites, grazing land, industrial buildings, industrial land, kiosks, offices, recreation land, shops, sporting club use, electricity utilities, gas utilities, water utilities, etc.

In the main the land the Council owns has been acquired over many years dating back to Victorian times since when land has been purchased for provision of cemeteries and parks, houses for the less well off, and for education. Over time areas of this portfolio which were not required for provision of direct services have been let or sold to third parties giving rise to the non-operational portfolio which in recent years has been augmented by Governments encouraging such schemes as land reclamation and town centre redevelopment.

3.2 Existing Land Terrier and its Computerisation

The records of all the Council's land ownership are held on the Land Terrier. The existing manual land terrier system comprises two sets of 340 OS based paper maps and 41 Terrier Books, one map set showing historic acquisitions and the other map set showing disposals. As a result of the complex nature of land ownership, the current extent of the Council's total land ownership cannot be quantified in terms of hectares and for this and reasons of asset management generally, a computerisation project is now underway.

On the 1st November 2000 the Council embarked on a GIS project to computerise the Land Terrier maps having selected ESRI's ArcView GIS (version 3.2a) as their Terrier mapping software. A partial capture of Terrier book data by in-house staff will be merged into computerised data and will enable the Council to report for the first time on the extent and tenure of its current land ownership.

4 General Historical Development


4.1 Introduction

Modern Tameside evolved from the industrial revolution and in particular the development of the Textile, Hating and Coal industries. Probably the best illustration of Tameside's development is the evolution of the urban centres from the time before the industrial revolution (1700), during the industrial revolution, through to the early 20th century (see Figures 5a-c)

Individual centres in Tameside Borough appeared at various points in time and grew at varying rates. However, in each case the driving force behind the expansion or contraction of the urban populations has been the state of development of the major industries.

4.2 Pre-War (World War I)

Before the last quarter of the 18th century the population of Tameside generally remained static without any significant rise or concentration in any particular area. At this time the greater proportion of the population was engaged in farming activities which generally comprised mixed farming with the onus on pastoral. Seldom profitable enough to support the farmers, a tradition of the farmer-craftsman had evolved, a proportion of whom were involved in weaving and the production of Textiles.

During the last quarter of the 18th century an industrialised textile industry and later a hatting industry developed in Tameside, powered initially by the rivers of Tameside and later by steam which in turn was powered by local coalfields. Ancillary industries that developed around these main industries included general engineering, sheet metal, leather belting manufacturers, industrial spinners, plumbing and heating engineers, industrial coal merchants, oil blenders and the construction industry etc. Developments in infrastructure included the canals, railways and trams; town gas and electricity; sewerage and water.

Crucially, the zones of both early and later industrial development were greatly influenced by a number of key factors, which contributed significantly to the success of the Tameside area during the industrial revolution. These were the provision of:

  • Raw Materials - especially wool, linen and later cotton for the Textile industry and other materials for other industries were imported into the area.
  • Water -utilised both as a source of power and as a raw material.
  • Fuel/Power - with the advent of steam and increased mechanisation the coalfields of Tameside provided a readily available source of coal.
  • Transport -an extensive system of canals and railways provided the necessary infrastructure. Inevitably industry tended to grow along these transport routes.

As a result of the aforementioned pattern of development of the major industries, ancillary industries, more often than not, set up in close proximity to rivers, canals and other transport routes, making use of plentiful raw materials.

In order to house an expanding work force, many terraced properties were developed in close proximity to the major industries of the time and so a characteristic of urban development during the late 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries was the co-development of industrial and residential property in urban centres.

4.3 Post War (World War I)

From the second quarter of the 20th century Tameside experienced a long term decline in the traditional textile, coal and heavy engineering industries which accounted for the original growth of its manufacturing towns. Tameside's employment structure is still reliant on a substantially higher proportion of manufacturing industries (39% in 1989) than Greater Manchester (24% in 1989) as a whole and nationally.

The decline in the main industries of Tameside has left large tracts of derelict land were industry once thrived. While certain areas have been successfully redeveloped for predominantly industrial, commercial, recreational and residential purposes, in the region of 90 -100 hectares of derelict land currently exist in the Borough and other sites currently in use will inevitably be affected by contamination as a result of previous uses.

5 Industrial History


5.1 Overview

The following review of Tameside's key historical industries is not exhaustive, other potentially contaminative industries also having being present.

5.2 Landfill



With the rapid industrialisation and urbanisation of the early 18th century the disposal of large quantities of industrial, commercial and household wastes first became a significant issue in Tameside. While recycling now plays a part in waste management for the Borough, traditionally most waste arisings were disposed of to landfill. Prior to the introduction of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 (COPA), there was little control of landfill operations.

Landfill In Tameside

Within Tameside there are approximately 80 known landfill sites, although this number is expected to rise with further investigation. Most of these known landfill sites were filled prior to COPA and so generally, limited information is available regarding waste types, the extent of the filled area etc. In the past, landfilling has been undertaken in the following situations in the Borough:

  • Quarries and clay, sand and gravel pits
  • Ponds, lakes and reservoirs
  • River Valleys and natural depressions
  • Disused railway cuttings and canals
  • Deep foundations (for example former gasholders) and basements etc.
  • Infilled Shafts, bell pits etc.
  • Levelling operations
  • Spreading operations

Often only limited information is available on the nature and types of wastes deposited, engineering details, geology etc. and ultimately each landfilling situation must be assessed separately taking into consideration the reliability of available information.

Polluters and Ownership

Due to the historical nature of landfill in the Tameside area it is anticipated that it will be difficult to find the person(s) who originally deposited wastes. In addition, with the advent of COPA some landfill owners passed on sites to the Local Authorities of the time. In the past some Local Authorities both owned and ran waste disposal sites, catering for local and regional needs. Many such sites were inherited by the Greater Manchester Waste Authority during the 1970's who are now responsible for their monitoring and where necessary, remediation.

Based on current information, the following significant landfill ownership exists in Tameside Borough:

  • Tameside MBC
  • Greater Manchester Waste Authority
  • Private Ownership - Industrial
  • Private Ownership - Residential
  • Private Ownership - Private Estates

5.3 Traditional Industry - Main Industries



Three main industries emerged during the industrial revolution and formed the backbone of Tameside's industrial success and prosperity between the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 20th century. These were the:

  • Textile Industry
  • Hatting Industry
  • Coal Industry

The Textile Industry

From as early as the 16th century, the production of textiles was a cottage industry in the Tameside area with two zones of textile production existing in the Borough up until the later stages of the 18th century. The first area included the upland zones of the Longdendale valley and the upper Tame Valley (Stalybridge and Mossley) where woollen spinning and weaving was the main operation. The second zone comprised the lowland areas were the textile industry was based on linen and fustian production, the main centre of activity being Ashton-Under-Lyne. With the establishment of the factory based cotton industry in lowland areas by the late 1700's, the cotton industry soon dominated the entire Borough.

A survey carried out by the Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit identified 274 textile sites in the Tameside area between 1763 and 1930, with mills generally being situated within urban areas and in close proximity to rivers, other water sources and transport routes of the time.

During the 1920's the cotton industry collapsed and many of the textile mills subsequently closed. The then empty mill buildings were either demolished, or as was often the case, utilised for other potentially polluting industries such as the chemicals industry, engineering, furniture making, printing etc., with multiple occupancy being common place. In a number of cases the mills were themselves built on old industrial sites.

The Hatting Industry

Traced back as far as the 17th century, as with textiles hatting initially developed as a cottage industry. By the beginning of the 19th century a number of hatting factories were established in Tameside. Unlike the Textile industry, the initial result of this development was the formation of specialist groups who undertook various stages of the hatting process under contract from the factories, the reason for this being that no satisfactory mechanised process had been developed to replace the skilled craftsman. However, by the end of the 19th century the industry had almost entirely been mechanised.

The main hatting town of Tameside and one of the four centres for hatting in Great Britain was Denton. Other important hatting centres in Tameside included Ashton, Gee Cross and Hyde, although at some point hatting is recorded as having taken place in most of the towns of Tameside, if only to a limited degree. Because the industry was predominantly based on home manufacturing for a considerable time, exact locations for many of the factories are not available and at best limited to the street in which the process operated.

The Coal Industry

Surface outcrops of coal of the Lancashire Coalfield in parts of Tameside resulted in its limited exploitation from the medieval period onwards mainly for domestic heating. However, it was only during the 18th century that significant extraction commenced supplying the emerging textile industries both locally and regionally. In fact, it was the need for improved transport of coal to Manchester and other centres in the region that prompted the development of the canal system, which later proved instrumental in the development of the textile industry in the area. ; The coal industry peaked during the mid-19th century after which it declined, with only two collieries remaining after 1906. Ashton Moss, Tameside's last colliery remained operational until the mid-1950s. A geological description of the Lancashire Coalfield is provided for in Part 5 Section 6.

Early working methods consisted of drift mining and bell pitting, both practices that make use of near to surface or surface deposits. It was only during the 18th century when near surface coal reserves had been exhausted that deeper shafts were sunk to exploit seems at depth. By the mid-19th century winding gear, ventilation fans and haulage equipment were generally mechanised, utilising steam power. Tramways were a common means to transport coal from the colliery to the nearest transport route. Mechanisation facilitated the exploitation of deep coal seems, the second shaft at Ashton Moss being advanced to a depth of 870m during the late 19th century (deepest shaft in the world at the time).

Directly as a result of the long-term decline of the coal industry, many of the coalfields and associated spoil heaps have been redeveloped for industrial, residential and commercial usage.

5.4 Traditional Industry - Ancillary/Other Industries

To supply and maintain the booming textile industry and rapid urbanisation, a number of key ancillary industries developed in the area and included:

  • Iron working and engineering
  • Building Trade
  • Other industries

Iron working and engineering

The main centres of this industry in Tameside were Ashton, Hyde and Dukinfield. The iron working industries of Ashton and Dukinfield arose in the mid to late 18th century and as with the textile industry, were often situated in close proximity to the River Tame, the canals and later the railways. The industry developed in Hyde at a later date and mainly from the mid 19th century onwards.

Traditionally the principle aim of the industry was the provision of machinery and parts to the coal, textile and hatting industries. However, diversification over the years to adapt to the changing demands of these principle industries and with their ultimate demise the search for new markets, has resulted in a wide range of engineering and manufacturing industries having existed in the area.

Building Trade

Resulting from the rapid industrialisation and urbanisation of the area, a demand for the raw materials of construction arose. In Tameside readily available sources of lime stone, grit stone and sandstone were available in the upland districts of Longdendale, Mossley and Stalybridge. Sources of clay and sand and gravel being readily available in the lowland regions of the Borough.

Research undertaken by the Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit, suggest that between the dates of 1845-72, in the region of 41 quarries were in existence in the Borough. Notably, these were mainly concentrated in the east of the Borough with the exception of sandstone quarrying to the south west of Denton. In the region of 10 brickfields and three groups of brick kilns were identified in the lowland districts of Tameside (to the west), most notably in Ashton, Denton, Dukinfield and Hyde where plentiful supplies of clay were present as a result of the drift geology.

Other Industry

Many other industry types have existed in the Tameside area over the years. Among others these have included:

  • The chemical industry - including the production chemicals, paints, explosives, cosmetics, soap and detergent manufacturing etc.
  • Sewage works and sewage farms - were usually situated near to urban centres and in close proximity to a watercourse (e.g. River Tame etc).
  • Gas works - these were initially developed during the first half of the 19th century, largely by mill owners at various mills in the Borough. However, subsequently dedicated sites were developed, often situated close to the town centres for reasons of supply.
  • Electricity was generated from two main Power Station sites (Ashton and Stalybridge) in the Borough from the late 19th century on wards. Tameside no longer has any Power Stations.
  • Other industries of note include scrap yards, animal and animal products and processing works (i.e. tanneries etc.), paper manufacturers, timber products manufacturing/treatment works etc.

5.5 Transportation

Contamination may be associated with both existing and historical transport networks, which includes roads, the railways and canals, resulting from their routine use, maintenance and after use. However, while the transport routes are a potential source of contamination, probably their greatest impact has been to influence the location of other industries seeking to take advantage of improved communication. In the case of canals, the effect has been to create watercourses, now recognised as an important habitat and increasingly utilised for recreation.


Roads form a potential dispersed source of contamination, as a result of emissions from vehicles such as particulate lead, cadmium, hydrocarbons, antifreeze/de-icers etc. More concentrated occurrences of contamination may result from major accidents on the roads.


A major means of transport since the industrial revolution, traditionally the most polluting aspect of railway land was the associated engineering and maintenance workshops. However, sources of pollution associated with the transport network are known to have included:

  • Potentially contaminated fill materials used in the creation of embankments along which the railways ran.
  • Emissions from trains (e.g. greases, oils, coal dust etc).
  • Compounds associated with track maintenance.
  • Pesticides and herbicides used to maintain the track corridors.
  • Residual contamination resulting from rail accidents.
  • Once abandoned, railway cuttings have often been infilled with waste materials.
  • Other tip sites associated with railway land.


Canals were the first major form of transport utilised by industries during the industrial revolution. During the 1950-70’s many fell into disrepair and some were subsequently infilled with wastes. Other potential sources of contamination arising from the canals included:

  • Associated engineering and maintenance workshops.
  • Spillage of cargo into canal.
  • Dredging arisings where often spread along the banks of canals or tipped into nearby landfills (often on canal land).

More recently a number of derelict and infilled stretches of canal have been reclaimed for recreational usage.

5.6 Agriculture

Agriculture is recognised as a potentially significant contaminative industry, a number of common past and existing practices having resulted in dispersed or localised contamination. Such practices may include:

  • The burial of animal carcasses (especially those infected by disease).
  • The use of chemicals (e.g. pesticides, herbicides, fertilisers, dips for livestock etc.).
  • Storage of slurries, fuels etc.
  • Spread of waste over land, including putrescible household/ commercial and sewage sludge wastes.
  • Illegal tipping of farm wastes.

5.7 Other Potential Sources of Contamination


Natural Sources of Contamination

There is a potential for the occurrence of contaminants naturally present in the environment, the most common examples being elevated levels of metals resulting from the geochemistry of the area and radon gas (see Part 5 Section 6).

Underground Storage Tanks

Underground storage tanks have been in common use for the storage of chemicals and fuels from the end of the 19th century. For many sites, successive changes in use, ownership and redevelopment have resulted in an absence of knowledge of the exact locations or even the presence of under ground storage tanks.

Usually associated with industrial sites, garages/show rooms, depots and filling stations, they may also be associated with other sites and especially where fuels where needed for transport purposes.

Septic tanks

Septic tanks are a common means of treating sewage where a property is not connected to the main sewage system. While the activity does not usually result in significant contamination of soils or groundwater, under certain circumstances and given the nature of the activity, contamination may occur. An example of such an occurrence would be a septic tank situated near to a well, in effect creating a direct pathway to underlying ground water.

Service Routes

Mains gas, sewerage and drainage convey potentially contaminating substances throughout Tameside Borough. Where leakage of these substances occur they may result in the contamination of soils and potentially ground water. The leakage of such substances may also confuse sampling and monitoring results when investigating contaminated land, for example, the presence of mains gas within a property may be mistaken for landfill gas, further laboratory analysis being necessary to determine an exact source.

General Residential Land use/ Fly Tipping

The inappropriate storage, use and disposal of both general household waste and hazardous materials (e.g. fuels, asbestos, other chemicals etc.) may result in contamination both on residential and other land. Such contamination will be infrequent, at a small scale and therefore difficult to detect historically, although the local authority does hold records of complaints made in relation to sites.

6 Geology of Tameside


6.1 Overview

Geology is an important consideration in the assessment of contaminated land, potentially acting as a pathway and/or a receptor depending on water baring characteristics, descriptions of which are provided for within Part 5 Section 7.

6.2 Overview of Geology in Tameside

The geological structure of the area is dominated by the Rossendale and Pennine anticlines which lie beyond the limits of the Tameside boundary, to the north and east respectively. There is a marked south-westerly swing in outcrop south of Stalybridge and further north, between Hyde and Oldham, the Tame valley folding causes a local intensification of this westerly dip. Faulting is heavy and complex in detail in the Borough and dominantly trends in a north westerly direction.

The westerly dip in the solid geology means that generally speaking the oldest rocks are found in the eastern areas with gradually younger rocks encountered westwards through the Borough.

6.3 Drift Geology


Sands and Gravels

Glacial sand and gravel deposits are present along the sides of the Tame Valley stretching from the north-east of the Borough running through Stalybridge, across to Dukinfield and heading southwards towards Hyde and the boundary with Stockport. Sometimes described as "river sand and gravel" it is commonly yellow or brown in colour.

Boreholes intercepting these sand and gravel deposits indicate varying depths of between 4m to 30m. The inherent properties of sand and gravels lend them to being a potential pathway. Moderate to high permeability’s with low attenuation characteristics mean that most contaminants will pass quickly through this geological formation. These deposits would also seem to be in hydraulic continuity with the River Tame and may therefore act as pathways for contaminant transport.

Glacial Clay

Glacial clay is the dominant drift deposit of the area covering at least two thirds of the Borough at depths of approximately 28m to a maximum known depth of 55m. The dominant clay in this area is a typical hard boulder clay that is grey or yellow-brown in colour, rather sandy and containing numerous stones and boulders. Sand layers, which can be greater than 1m in thickness can be found within these boulder clay deposits, and may act as local aquifers. The sand layers can also act as important pathways for the migration of contaminants including landfill gases.

Boulder clay has important properties for resisting the movement of contaminants from near surface deposits to groundwater receptors as it generally has low permeability with good attenuation characteristics. However, the presence of fissures and sand layers may significantly increase permeability and may be in hydraulic continuity with local streams and rivers.


Recent (post-glacial) alluvial deposits can be found alongside the River Tame between Stalybridge and Dukinfield and again south of Dukinfield. The alluvial deposits mainly comprise silty sandy gravel and are in direct hydraulic continuity with local streams and rivers. The alluvium deposits are susceptible to contamination from the potentially contaminating industries that are present along the River Tame. They have minimal attenuation characteristics and have the geological properties to act as potential pathways and pollutant linkages.


The area around Ashton-under-Lyne has a well-known peat moss present at surface, this moss is thought to have formed part of a former silted up lake. Peat deposits consist of accumulated sphagnum moss which are generally saturated and have low values of hydraulic conductivity. As well as acting as a potential pathway for contamination, peat deposits can and do provide natural sources of both methane and carbon dioxide.

6.4 Solid Geology


Millstone Grit

The oldest rocks found in the Tameside Borough are the Millstone Grit series from the Namurian series. Only the upper part of the Millstone Grit series lies within the Tameside borough with the lowest bed present being the main ‘Third Grit’ otherwise known as the Gorpley Grit.

The Gorpley Grit is located in the upland areas of Tameside forming the eastern border of the borough. It is poorly exposed but wherever seen displays a coarse and massive character. Overlying the Gorpley Grit is the Holcombe Brook Grit and the upper boundary of the Millstone Grit series commonly known as the Rough Rock. The Rough Rock series can be seen at outcrops around Stalybridge and can then be traced running northwards through the Borough. The coarse nature of the series could also see it act as a potential pathway for contaminants to migrate along.

Lower Coal Measures

The Lower Coal Measures are from the Westphalian series of the Carboniferous period. These measures are commonly found in the central and eastern parts of the Tameside borough, trending south through Hartshead and Hazelhurst to Stalybridge and on under a gradually increasing cover of drift deposits to Hyde.

The series comprises shaly mudstones interspersed with sandstone layers and thin coal seams. The coal seams in this series are rarely worked, mainly due to the high sulphur content of the coal. However, the sandstone layers present have been worked especially in quarries around the Stalybridge area.

The sandstone layers within the Lower Coal Measures are the main factor behind its notation as a minor aquifer having the ability to act as local pathways for migrating contaminants.

Middle Coal Measures

The Middle Coal Measures are also from the Westphalian series of the Carboniferous period. These measures are commonly found in the central and western parts of the Tameside borough, trending south to south-west through Park Bridge and Ashton-under-Lyne to Dukinfield and on to Denton.

The Tameside Borough embraces an important area of the Middle Coal Measures lying on the south-west side of the major Chamber Fault. With the exception of a few often-worked exposures on the banks of the River Tame at Dukinfield, the measures are concealed by glacial deposits.

The Middle Coal Measures comprises a variable series of thin workable coal seams, fireclays, shale and sandstone up to 500m in thickness. The sandstone layers within the Middle Coal Measures are the main factor behind its notation as a minor aquifer and may have the ability to act as local pathways for migrating contaminants. In addition, mining activity within the Middle Coal Measures may lead to shafts and tunnels acting as preferential pathways for contaminants.

Upper Coal Measures

The Upper Coal Measures generally comprise marls and shales with occasional sand layers and are found in a small segment around the Droylsden area. This geological series is classified a minor aquifer although generally it is not considered to have a significant potential to act as either a pathway or a receptor.

Permian Rocks

The youngest rocks in Tameside are those belonging to the Permian Period and can be found in the western part of the Borough, especially in the flat country west of Denton. These Permian deposits separate the exposed coal field of Ashton-under-Lyne from that of the city of Manchester.

The only rock type from this period present is the Collyhurst sandstone, which lies uncomfortably over the Upper Coal Measures and the Middle Coal Measures and is around 25m thick. It is a soft red sandstone with abundant beds of sand grains alternating with beds of fine sharp sand. The coarse, well-rounded millet seed grains indicating an Aeolian origin suggesting deposition occurred in the winds of an arid climate.

The Collyhurst sandstone is a major aquifer and, through its high permeability and its use as an aquifer, has implications as both a potential receptor and a potential pathway.

6.5 Made Ground

Areas of made ground within the Tameside Borough include former spoil heaps from collieries that may have been used to level-up smaller surface features. Other areas of made ground have arisen from major road and rail developments in the area. Most railway embankments consist of made ground and the more recent road developments such as the M66 (now M60) and the M67 have all had to export large quantities of earth which has subsequently being tipped in areas around the Borough.

Another major source of Made Ground in the area is the general ongoing redevelopment of both residential and industrial development. Problems arising from areas of made ground include the potential for landfill gas production and presence of contaminating substances that may have become incorporated into fills. Depending on the characteristics of Made Ground, it may also act as a pathway for contaminant transfer.

6.6 Background Geochemistry

Background geochemical levels from the Regional Geochemistry atlas for North West England and North Wales, produced by the British Geological Survey (see Table below) indicate that Arsenic, Boron, Cadmium, Lead and Zinc levels from stream sediment sampling and Zinc levels in soil samples are marginally elevated in parts of the Borough.

Arsenic levels in stream sediments are thought to be linked to their presence within the coal measures strata. Boron levels are generally high and may be associated with contamination from past industry, or naturally from shale deposits within the coal measures of the Carboniferous period.

Maximum Cadmium values found in the northern areas of the Borough are considered to be an anomaly associated with historical industrial development in the area. Minimum Cadmium values found across the rest of the Tameside borough are considered to be more representative of natural background levels.

Maximum Lead and Zinc values in the central area of the Borough are considered to be entirely due to man-made contamination. The minimum Lead value, found in the southern area of the borough and the minimum Zinc value found in most other regions of the borough, are thought to be more representative of the expected natural background levels.

True natural background levels are therefore considered to be better represented by the minimum values of samples found in the southern area of the Borough.

Summary of maximum and minimum values of selected chemical species from stream sediments and soil deposits within Tameside Borough



Maximum concentration (mg/kg)

Minimum concentration (mg/kg)

ICRCL Threshold (mg/kg)

Stream Sediments


























































Note: ICRCL levels are those produced by the Inter-departmental Committee for the Redevelopment of Contaminated Land and are soon to be replaced by standards derived from the CLEA model.

7 Water Resources


7.1 Overview

Controlled waters may constitute a receptor and/or a pathway under the Contaminated Land Regime. This Section describes controlled waters (comprising both surface and groundwater resources within Tameside MBC.

Tameside is situated within the Southern Area of the Environment Agency's North West Region, which is covered by the following four Local Environment Agency Plans (LEAPs) that relate to individual river catchments:

  • Rock/Irk/Medlock
  • Tame/Goyt/Etherow
  • Mersey/Bollin
  • Croal/Irwell

7.2 Ground Water Resources

Within the borough underground reserves of water are contained within various geological strata, collectively known as aquifers. The potential for geological strata to yield water economically is denoted by its aquifer status, a major aquifer having the greatest potential to yield water and a non-aquifer having the least potential to yield water. The distribution of major, minor and non-aquifer units within the District is described below and illustrated in Figure 6a. Geological descriptions of strata and their distribution are contained within Part 5 Section 6.

Major Aquifer

The major aquifer within the Borough is the Permo-Triassic Sandstone (including the Sherwood Sandstone Group). Although there are no licensed abstractions from this aquifer unit, where it occurs in the Tameside Borough, historical over-abstraction has led to falling groundwater levels and up-flow of deep saline waters. Recent reduction in abstraction has allowed recovery of levels but quality concerns remain. High permeability's also result in Permo-Triassic Sandstone potential to act as a pathway.

The major aquifer is generally overlain by significant amounts of low permeability glacial boulder clay, limiting aquifer recharge and thereby affording some protection to the aquifer from pollution by man's activities. However, where more permeable drift deposits are present, such as glacial sand and gravel and alluvium along the course of the River Tame, they should be considered capable of transmitting water, and therefore contaminants, to the aquifer beneath.

Minor Aquifer

The Minor aquifer within the Borough boundaries are principally rocks of Carboniferous age comprising the Coal Measures and Millstone Grit Series, although unconsolidated drift (superficial) deposits also form localised minor aquifers. A major influence on groundwater movement is likely to be the presence of old coal workings within the Coal Measures, which can give rise to complex and rapid groundwater flow.

Cover of superficial deposits (drift) over these strata is absent in a number of areas, mainly over the higher ground to the east, and here the groundwater will be particularly vulnerable to pollution from surface activities. Where present, much of the drift cover is of glacial boulder clay which, where thickly developed may afford some protection to the underlying minor aquifer.

The more permeable sediments (glacial sand and gravel, and terrace deposits) however, may form minor aquifers in their own right and have some potential for exploitation. Groundwater in the drift also supports the peat lands present beneath Ashton-under-Lyne and on the high ground in the far east of the Borough. Groundwater quality in the drift deposits is variable and may be highly susceptible to surface pollution as well as potentially transmitting contamination.


The non-aquifer in the Borough is the Manchester Marls. Where low permeability strata such as glacial boulder clays are thickly developed and laterally extensive they may be considered as non-aquifers.

Water Abstractions

The Environment Agency have reported some 45 licensed groundwater abstractions in Tameside of which two thirds are for industrial, commercial and public services usage, the remaining third being for agriculture (see Figure 7c). Agricultural abstractions tend to be situated in the rural east of the borough while industrial, commercial and public services abstractions tend to be situated in the more industrialised areas of Ashton, Hyde and Stalybridge. A recorded 17 private water supplies also exist (see Figure 7d), mainly distributed to the rural east of the Borough. On going monitoring of these supplies aims to ensure that these sources of water (and receptors) remain fit for their use.

There are no designated source protection zones in the Borough largely as a result of the overlying drift deposits that exist. While most of the abstractions will, to a large extent be protected by overlying drift deposits, where these are less substantial or non existent, water supplies may be more susceptible to contamination.

7.3 Surface Water Resources

Three principal watercourses and their associated tributaries run through Tameside, namely the River Etherow, the River Tame and the River Medlock (see Figure 6b). The greater part of the Borough is covered by the Tame and Etherow catchments, those of the River Mersey and the River Irwell only forming a small portion of the south-western and north western area of Tameside respectively. The Peak Forrest Canal, Huddersfield Canal and various reservoirs such as the Audenshaw Reservoir, Godley Reservoir and Walkerwood Reservoir (Stalybridge) also form important water resources. Of interest is the drainage network associated with Ashton Moss to the north west of the Borough.

The Environment Agency operates two systems to assess existing water quality and future water quality objectives. General Quality Assessment (GQA) grades classify existing water quality along specific stretches of River on a scale of A to F, A being Very Good and F being Bad. River Quality Objectives (RQO's) provide improvement targets for particular stretches of river.

Generally, as a result of the long industrial history and past programmes of culverting Rivers and Streams of Tameside, river water quality in the eastern part of the Borough tends to be of a Lower quality. Higher quality waters are generally found to the rural east. So for example, sections of the River Tame between Ashton and the River Mersey are attributed GQA grades of D and E (or Fair and Poor Quality), while a section of the Carr Brook in the rural east of the Borough, is designated Grade A (or Very Good Quality). Tributaries of the larger water courses such as the Denton Brook are also impacted by pollution. With few exceptions RQO’s have been met in the Borough.

While a handful of sites are known to be potentially polluting surface water resources in the Borough, generally the high density of industrial development and in some cases former landfilling along the rivers of Tameside and especially the River Tame (and its tributaries), make it difficult to attribute poor water quality to any particular site, although pollution is almost certainly occurring from these sources. The matter is further complicated as current permitted emissions from industry, sewage discharges and storm water overflows are significant causes of water pollution and often act to hide underlying long-term pollution that is occurring as a result of contaminated land.

Within the Tame/Goyt/Etherow LEAP parts of the River Tame; the Denton Brook; Godley Brook in Hyde; Johnson Brook in Dukinfield; Jeremy Brook in Ashton; Swineshaw Brook in Stalybridge, and; Hurst Clough Brook, are sited as been adversely impacted upon by discharges from sewage overflows. Examples of watercourses and water bodies that are affected by contaminated surface water discharges include the Chadwick Dam in Ashton-under-Lyne and an unnamed tributary of the River Tame at Quarry Cough Stalybridge.

Within the Roch/Irk/Medlock LEAP it is acknowledged that the River Medlock is impacted by the aforementioned sources of pollution.

While less so than other Boroughs in the area, a proportion of Tameside's water supply is met through private extraction. There are some 7 known private surface water extractions in the Borough, again predominantly situated to the rural east.

8 Protected Habitats


8.1 Overview

Despite Tameside's industrial legacy and pressures from on going industrial development/redevelopment, deforestation and afforestation, transport networks and urbanisation, wildlife continues to be relatively abundant with ecological designations (described below) covering approximately 5.5% of the Boroughs area.

Table A of the DETR Circular 02/2000 lists the ecological systems that must be considered under the contaminated land regime, details of which for Tameside MBC are provided below.

Protected Habitats within Tameside

These predominantly comprise locally designated Sites of Biological Interest (44 such sites in the Borough) and 3 Local Nature Reserves. National designations managed by English Nature include 3 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), of which one is internationally recognised as a Special Protection Area (SPA) for birds. The following list summarises these designations (see Figure 8a).



Dark Peak National Park - SSSI and SPA

Main moorland area of the Peak District and includes a wide range of habitats including plateaux mires, wet and dry heaths, acid grassland and mires on moorland slopes. Internationally important populations of several bird species and nationally important species of vegetation.

Hollingworth Branch of Ashton Canal - SSSI

Starts at Lumb Mill and runs northwards towards Daisy Nook. Best example of a mesotrophic standing water system in Greater Manchester and Merseyside and includes areas of open water, swamp and tall fen. Significant animal and plant species reside within the watercourse.

Huddersfield Narrow Canal - SSSI

Runs from Junction with Peak Forest Canal through industrial areas of Stalybridge, then northwards through open countryside to Tollemache Aras Lock. Best example of a flowing eutrophic system in Greater Manchester. Significant animal and plant species reside within the watercourse.

Local Nature Reserves -

Generally comprised of areas designated as Sites of Biological Importance. Within the Borough Great Wood, Knott Hill Reservoir and

Sites of Biological Importance

The most common form of designated site in the borough, they are important to help maintain habitats that are considered to be locally significant, but also contribute significantly to the maintenance of the overall ecological viability of the Borough.

Ecological designations are not limited to the eastern rural areas of the Borough and include stretches of canal (designated SSSIs) and small areas of open land situated within the urban domain.

9 Property in the Form of Buildings


9.1 Overview

All property in the form of buildings is included under the definition of building effects under the regime. In addition scheduled ancient monuments designated under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979, must be considered. Within the United Kingdom certain buildings, other structures and areas are listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 by reason of their special character.

9.2 Buildings/Monuments within Tameside

Within Tameside there are three scheduled ancient monuments, a singe listed park, 307 listed buildings and 9 conservation areas. The following list summarises these designations (see Figure 8a and c).



Nico Ditch - Scheduled Ancient Monument

Suspected Anglo Saxon boundary/defensive ditch and earth work situated in Denton, the protected section (205m) comprising a representative segment of the original 5 km stretch.

Round Cairn - Scheduled Ancient Monument

Bronze Age cairn situated on a hilltop west of Hollingworth Hall Moor.

Buckton Castle - Scheduled Ancient Monument

Medieval ring-work castle situated on the edge of Buckton Moore.

Cheethams Park - Listed Park

Designed by Gregory Hill of Stalybridge, the park opened to the public in 1873. Its features include ornamental gardens, lawns, recreational areas, a river valley, lakes and Highfield House.

Listed Buildings

The following general categories of building are listed in the borough:

  • Churches, sundials and old schools
  • Farmhouses, cottages, public houses and other residential and commercial buildings
  • Monuments, memorials and towers
  • Industrial buildings/features of note
  • Bridges, aqueducts, viaducts and locks

Conservation Areas

Include extensive parts of Ashton and Stalybridge's Victorian town centres, the canal side area at Portland Basin in Ashton, two industrial and one crossroads village in the east of the Borough, two small areas associated with churches, and the Fairfield Moravian Settlement in Droylsden.

A description of the general distribution of residential, commercial and industrial land use in the Borough is provided for in Section 3. Generally, scheduled ancient monuments are not considered to be under threat from contaminated land by reason of the nature of their construction and situation.

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