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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/environmental-permits-when-and-how-we-consult/environmental-permits-when-and-how-we-consult
The Environment Agency must consult the public and relevant organisations on:
- certain applications for environmental permits
- new standard rules for environmental permits
- changes to existing standard rules for environmental permits
This guide describes how we meet this legal requirement, other applications we have decided to consult on and how we will consult.
When we make a permit decision, we use information on the potential environmental and human health impacts of the activity. For flood risk activities we also use information on the potential flood risk and land drainage impacts.
Public consultation lets people and organisations take part in our decision making. You can comment on issues that could affect you or where you have particular knowledge. We take all relevant comments into account so we can make better decisions.
When we consult on permit applications
New bespoke permit applications
A bespoke permit is a permit tailored to a particular activity in a particular location. It includes site specific requirements depending on the type of activity and its risk.
The Environment Agency consults the public and relevant organisations on new bespoke permit applications for:
- all installations
- all waste operations
- all water discharge activities
- all groundwater activities
- all radioactive substances activities, other than those involving sealed radioactive sources
- all mining waste operations that include a waste facility
- certain standalone flood risk activities
- medium combustion plant and specified generators, whose emissions to air may have significant negative effects on humans or the environment
Flood risk activities
We consult on standalone flood risk activity permit and variation (change) applications that are both of the following:
- part of a project that requires an environmental impact assessment
- in our opinion, likely to have a significant adverse effect on the environment
Variations (changes) to permits
We consult the public and relevant organisations on proposed changes to bespoke permits:
- for installations, mining waste, water discharge, groundwater activities, medium combustion plant and specified generators that, in our opinion, may have significant negative effects on humans or the environment
- for waste operations that, in our opinion, may significantly increase the risk from operations
- that will convert another kind of regulated facility into an installation
- for changes to emission limits for an installation after significant pollution has occurred
We also consult on applications to change a standard rules permit into a bespoke permit.
Other applications we consult on
We also consult the public and relevant organisations on:
- applications where we propose to accept less strict emission limits than those associated with best available techniques following an application for derogation
- any other application if we consider it appropriate, for example applications of high public interest
We may carry out additional consultation if:
- any significant changes are made to an application, for example a change to the proposed activity or operator
- we receive new information about the application
High public interest applications
We decide whether an application is of high public interest on a case-by-case basis.
To reach our decision we consider all the relevant information, including:
- whether the interest relates to issues regulated under an environmental permit
- the breadth and scale of interest – for example, the number of different sources such as individuals, interest groups, businesses, local councillors, media and whether there is ongoing engagement from the local MP
- whether the interest is, or is likely to be, sustained for a period of time
An application can become high public interest at any stage. We review our decision if circumstances change.
When we decide an application is high public interest, we tailor our consultation to the particular circumstances.
For bespoke permit applications and changes (variations), we may do one or more of the following:
- consult for more than 20 working days
- publicise more widely, for example public drop-in events, press releases, social media and adverts
- consult on the draft permit or notice and the draft decision document
For new standard rules applications that are high public interest, we may do one or more of the following:
- consult on operator competence and whether the criteria for that rule set are met
- inform the community in other ways, such as publicise on the GOV.UK website
For permit transfer applications that are high public interest, we may do one or more of the following:
- consult on operator competence
- inform the community in other ways, such as publicise on the GOV.UK website
How we consult on permitting applications
When the Environment Agency consults on a permitting application, it’s published on GOV.UK.
- what the application is about
- where you can view the application documents
- how you can comment
- when you need to comment by
- any specific public participation information required for installation and mining waste permit applications – see schedule 7 and schedule 20 of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016
Confidential or restricted information
We cannot consult on parts of some applications. This is because they contain information that is:
- commercially or industrially confidential
- subject to national security restrictions
We only consult on the parts of these applications where we can make the information public.
Timings for permit application consultations
When we need to consult on a permitting application we will start the consultation within 30 working days of it being ‘duly made’. An application is duly made when we have the information we need to start assessing it. For applications where we receive a claim for confidentiality or national security, the 30 days start from the date we decide the claim.
Permit consultations are usually available for comment for 20 working days. If we need to permit an activity in an emergency we may need to consult for less time. If the application is of high public interest we may consult for longer.
Final permit decisions
The Environment Agency aims to make all permit decisions as quickly as possible and within 16 weeks for applications that require consultation.
If the application is of high public interest we may take longer to make a decision.
We might withhold some information if it’s industrially or commercially confidential or subject to national security restrictions.
When we consult on standard rules
The Environment Agency issues standard rules for some activities. These are fixed for the particular activity type and may include restrictions on things like size or location. The applicant must meet the relevant rules and the associated risk assessment.
We consult on proposed:
- new standard rules and their associated risk assessment
- changes to standard rules – this includes amendments and removing (revoking) standard rules
How we consult on standard rules
The Environment Agency publishes consultations for new and proposed changes to standard rules on its consultation website. The public can comment on these.
We consult interested parties, for example:
- companies that may want to have a permit
- government departments and agencies
- trade bodies
- non-government organisations
- permit holders that may be affected by proposed changes to standard rules
Timings for new standard rules consultations
The consultation period for new standard rules is normally 12 weeks. We may change the length of the consultation period in accordance with the government consultation principles.
Changes to existing standard rules
When we want to change a set of standard rules, we contact all permit holders affected by the proposed changes. This allows permit holders to take part in developing the standard rules by commenting on draft proposals.
We do not normally consult on minor administrative changes, such as corrections or clarifications.
The consultation period for changes to existing standard rules is normally a minimum of 28 days. We may change the length of the consultation period in accordance with the government consultation principles.
We notify the existing permit holders, who are using the standard rules set, about the agreed changes. We give them 12 weeks to follow the revised rules. If they cannot meet the new requirements, or if the rule set is being removed, they must apply for a bespoke permit.
Final standard rules
The Environment Agency will review responses and prepare a consultation response that sets out its decision.
We publish the standard rules and associated risk assessments on GOV.UK.
Consulting other organisations
The Environment Agency will consult any organisations or bodies with expertise or local knowledge. For example water and sewerage undertakers, other government agencies, local authorities and other public bodies. We may choose to do this even when we’re not legally required to consult.
We’ve agreed how we work with particular organisations. Joint agreements such as ‘working together agreements’ and ‘memorandums of understanding’ set out:
- the areas of particular interest
- how the organisations can help each other
- the best communication methods
- arrangements for consulting on permit applications and standard rules
We consult Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) on cross-border issues.