Cutting vegetation in inland freshwater: environmental permit exemption

When you're exempt from needing an environmental permit for letting vegetation cuttings fall into rivers, streams, lakes and canals.

You’re carrying out a ‘water discharge activity’ if you cut or uproot a large amount of vegetation in or next to any inland freshwater and let it fall into the water. You would usually need an environmental permit for a water discharge activity to do this.

However, you’re exempt from needing an environmental permit if you can meet the conditions of this exemption.

You must register your exemption with the Environment Agency if you qualify.

This vegetation cutting exemption does not cover any other methods of disposing or using waste plant material, such as burning, chipping, shredding or spreading. If the vegetation is removed from the water it becomes a waste management activity and you must follow the waste exemption guidance.

When you’re exempt from needing a permit

You’re exempt from needing an environmental permit if you can meet the following conditions. You must:

  • let anyone that may be affected know in advance when you’ll be cutting vegetation (this could include owners of structures within or on the watercourse, owners of designated biodiversity sites, fisheries or boating interests)
  • have enough flow to carry away the vegetation
  • not cause pollution

You must decide whether there’s enough flow to carry away the cuttings. If the flow isn’t strong enough to carry the vegetation downstream, you must remove the vegetation immediately and follow the waste exemption guidance.

How to comply with the exemption

You must:

  • have an annual work programme of what you’re going to do
  • keep records of all the work you carry out for 5 years
  • not cause pollution

If the Environment Agency asks to inspect your records, you must make them available within 10 working days.

Register your exemption

You must register if you qualify for an exemption.

It’s free to register.

You only need to apply once for an exemption for managing vegetation. You don’t need to renew it unless your details change.

Contact the Environment Agency who will send you the form you need to fill in and help you with your application.

General enquiries

National Customer Contact Centre
PO Box 544
S60 1BY

Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Published 1 February 2016