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Applying for an Environmental Permit? Here’s what you need to know

25 May 2015

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Bethan Stones

Group Marketing Manager

Cura Terrae
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When your planned activities have the potential to damage the environment, you may need an environmental permit. The sheer quantity of guidance and the range of environmental permits available can make the process daunting to start and confusing when you do. So, before you get started, here’s what you need to know.

Do I need a permit?
If your operations do not fall within the requirements of the Environmental Permitting Regulations, you will not require a permit. However, even if they do, you still may not require a permit. If you comply with the basic rules that ensure you do not cause pollution, you will not need a permit. For example, storing waste that you have generated in secure containers on your site for under 12 months will not require an environmental permit. Then there are exemptions. If you can carry out your activity within the limits of the exemption, you can register this with the EA (usually for free) and carry out the activity. If you cannot meet the basic rules or the conditions of the exemption, you will usually have to apply for a permit.

Who gives me my permit?
Most permits are granted by the Environment Agency (EA). However, for less polluting industries, your permit may come from the Local Authority. For this article, we will focus on EA permits.

What type of permit do I need?
There are a number of different permits that are granted by the EA that will first be determined by your activities. Different permits are for waste operations, installations, mining waste operations, discharge of sewage or trade effluent and groundwater discharges (land spreading activities). Once the type of permit has been established, you could have a standard or bespoke permit. Standard permits are a set of rules for a permitted site that you can comply with. Applying for a standard permit is quicker, easier and cheaper but you must be able to comply with all of the rules. There are standard rules permits for a number of operations e.g. waste transfer stations, composting and water discharges. If you cannot comply with the standard rules, or your activities aren’t included, you will need to apply for a bespoke permit. Here, your permit will be tailored specifically to your site and activities.

Do I have everything I need to apply for a permit?
For any permit, you will need to demonstrate you have the policies and procedures in place to protect the environment and comply with the conditions a permit will impose on you. If you haven’t already got one, you will need to develop an Environmental Management System (EMS). This system does not need to be accredited to a standard, like ISO14001, but you may take that decision to further manage your risks. Either way, your EMS must have certain procedures and specific environmental risk assessments to demonstrate sound environmental practices and management. In addition to an EMS, you should have all the information relating to your actual or proposed activities. This may include information such as factory capacity, discharge points or discharge composition.

How do I apply for my permit?
Once you have established the type of permit you require and the information has been collated that you might need, you can apply for your permit. If you are dealing with the EA, there are various forms you will need to complete. It may be necessary to talk to an EA officer early on so they are aware of your permit application and can advise you on the type of permit to apply for and what forms you need to fill out. This can be quite a complicated and time consuming process so you may want to seek advice from a consultant as well.

How long will it take to get my permit?
Preparing for permit application will vary according to your site. Preparing the procedures, information and required forms can take a while, depending on what is already there and established. Once you have submitted all the required information to the EA, they may come back to you for clarification or further information. Once they have everything they need, hopefully they will make your permit Duly Made and usually takes up to three months. As long as you are happy with the contents of your permit, it will be granted.

How much will my permit cost?
That is very much dependent on your site activities and risk. Standard rules permits are a set price (depending on the activity) for application and annual subsistence. Bespoke permit charges are based on the risks of your site.

What do I do now I have my permit?
Once you have a permit, you must comply with the clauses within which we will discuss in another article. Unfortunately, applying for an environmental permit is not an easy or straightforward task. Your permit is there to make sure you manage the environmental risks associated with your operations. That’s why you need documented environmental procedures and the EA need to be happy that everything is in place to protect the environment. Once you get your permit, all the conditions should be fairly familiar to you and following the requirements will make sure your continued operations do not pose an unnecessary risk to the environment.That’s why you need documented environmental procedures and the EA need to be happy that everything is in place to protect the environment. Once you get your permit, all the conditions should be fairly familiar to you and following the requirements will make sure your continued operations do not pose an unnecessary risk to the environment.

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