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Activities subject to permit
Which activities require an environmental permit and how are they classified for such purposes?
The main permitting regime for England and Wales is set out in the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016, which act as an integrated permitting regime and implement numerous pieces of EU environmental legislation (eg, the EU Industrial Emissions Directive (2010/75/EU)). The regulations regulate various activities, including:
- a range of power generation activities;
- waste operations;
- mining waste operations;
- discharges into water; and
- waste incineration.
Which authority issues permits?
Environmental permits are issued by:
- the Environment Agency (EA), which is the primary regulator of compliance with environmental legislation and permitting in England;
- Natural Resources Wales (NRW), which fills this role in Wales; and
- the relevant local authority (under certain circumstances).
What are the procedural and documentary requirements to obtain a permit?
Standard or bespoke environmental permits can be obtained from the EA depending on the industrial activity concerned (typically more complex and more polluting activities are subject to bespoke permits). Standard environmental permits contain a single condition, which refers to a standard set of rules with which the permit holder must comply. The procedure for applying for an environmental permit includes completing a form and providing relevant environmental information (set out in a schedule to the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016).
Do any permit fees apply?
Yes. Fees levied vary by activity and include an application charge on applying for a new environmental permit and a charge for amendments to a permit.
Validity period and renewal
What is the validity period for permits and how can they be renewed?
Environmental permits do not expire as a matter of course unless specified. However, the issuing authorities must review permits periodically.
Can permits be transferred? If so, what procedure applies?
Yes, either completely or partially. The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 provide for a transfer procedure, which involves either a joint application of the transferor and transferee or an application by the transferee. The EA publishes environmental permit transfer forms online.
Are permit decisions subject to appeal? If so, what procedure applies?
Certain permit decisions can be appealed to the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs (in England) or the Welsh government (in Wales), including:
- environmental permit application refusals;
- variation application refusals;
- transfer application refusals;
- the imposition of permit conditions; and
- the service of an enforcement, revocation, suspension or prohibition notice.
Appeals must be submitted in writing, but all parties have the right to request a hearing.
What are the consequences of violating permit rules and decisions?
It is a criminal offence to violate an environmental permit or the terms of an enforcement or suspension notice. The regulator has a range of enforcement mechanisms available with regard to permit violations, including:
- serving an enforcement or suspension notice;
- mandating that operators take certain steps when there is a high risk of pollution; or
- undertaking enforcement action where an accident or incident has significantly affected the environment, with any remediation costs being recovered from the operator.
The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 also contains obligations to self-report criminal liability to the National Crime Agency in certain circumstances where there has been a financial benefit from criminal conduct (including where a business has profited from operating either without an environmental permit, where one was required, or in breach of its terms).
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