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Last edited 01 Nov 2022
Environmental permit for construction
An environmental permit is required under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 for a range of specified activities.
Applicants must apply either to the Environment Agency (EA) or the relevant local authority, depending on the activity. It can take up to 13 weeks to determine the application, and charges are imposed for both the determination and ongoing regulation of the permit.
Some activities, such as those relating to waste, will not be permitted unless an appropriate planning permission is in place. For other activities it is at the discretion of the applicant as to whether to apply for a permit before or after applying for planning permission.
A permit can be revoked if the relevant authority decides the operator is no longer suitable or adequately complying with the permit conditions.
 When is a permit required?
A permit may be required if an activity could:
A permit is required for the operation of:
- An industrial facility, manufacturing plant, landfill site, and so on.
- A site that recycles, stores, treats and/or disposes of waste.
- A site which manages mine and/or quarry waste.
- A small waste incineration plant where waste of certain types and quantities are burned.
- Mobile plant, such as plant used to clean contaminated ground.
- Direct or indirect release of organic solvents into the air.
- Release of polluting liquids to either surface water or groundwater.
In addition, a permit will be required for activities which involve:
- Working with radioactive substances.
- Working in, under, over or near a main river.
- Working on or near a flood or coastal defence.
- Working in the flood plain of a main river.
The activity and its pollution risk will determine who the permit application should be made to.
|Installation||Check the Environmental Permitting Regulations (England and Wales) 2016. If the activity is listed as ‘Part A1’, apply to EA. If it’s ‘Part A2’ or ‘Part B’, apply to local council.|
|Waste or mining waste operation||EA.|
|Small waste incineration plant||Check the Environmental permitting guidance: waste incineration.|
|Mobile plant||EA if the plant deals with waste otherwise apply to local council.|
|Solvent emissions activity||Local council.|
|Stand-alone water discharge or groundwater activity||EA|
|Flood risk activities on or near a main river or sea defence||EA|
The EA will check for permit compliance and the competency of the operator. Sometimes an operator may wish to transfer a permit to another party, but the EA can reject this application if they consider them insufficiently competent.
The EA can check the operation by carrying out:
- A desk-based assessment of compliance.
- Site inspection (either planned or unannounced).
- Sampling of permitted water discharge.
Inspections or assessments can take place if there has been:
- A local or on-site pollution incident.
- Demonstrable risk of a pollution incident occurring.
- A flood incident.
- Depositing of illegal waste.
- A complaint about the activity.
- Unauthorised works.
Action that can be taken by the EA if they suspect illegal non-compliance with the permit can include:
- Providing advice.
- Changing the conditions of the permit.
- Serving an enforcement or remediation notice.
- Serving a suspension notice.
NB High Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Environmental Statement, Glossary, abbreviations and references, published by the Department for Transport in 2022, states: ‘Many activities that can cause pollution are prohibited unless authorised by a permit. When either the Environment Agency or a local authority gives someone an environmental permit, they are allowing that person to carry out an activity under certain conditions. A business may need to apply to the Environment Agency for an environmental permit if it uses, recycles, treats, stores or disposes of waste or mining waste.’
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