Planning and development – guidance

Developers: get environmental advice on your planning proposals

Get advice on planning applications and applications for nationally significant infrastructure projects.

The content on this page is in beta and may be updated frequently.

This guide applies to all construction and transport developers.

When to consult the agencies

You should consult the Environment Agency, the Marine Management Organisation or Natural England (‘the agencies’) early in the planning process for environmental advice on your planning application. They’ll tell you about environmental issues and help you to deal with them.

You must consult the agencies before you apply for planning permission (the ‘pre-application stage’) for:

  • nationally significant infrastructure projects, like motorways or power stations
  • proposals that are likely to affect the agencies’ interests, like protected sites, coastal sites or flood risk zones

Some advice is free. More complex advice isn’t.

For all other types of development, consulting the agencies is optional.

Consult Natural England

You must consult Natural England if the development:

  • is in or likely to affect a site of special scientific interest (SSSI)
  • is likely to affect European protected sites like special areas of conservation (SACs), special protection areas (SPAs) or Ramsar wetlands
  • will impact on:
    • marine protected areas
    • protected areas (national parks, Norfolk and Suffolk Broads and areas of outstanding natural beauty)
    • the best and most versatile agricultural land
    • ancient woodland
  • includes:

You can get free information online about the following protected sites including SSSIs, SPAs and SACs.

Use the Magic map system to see if the planning proposals affect a protected area or site. Select the ‘designations’ category in the table of contents and use the map search to show the location of the proposed development on the map.

For national parks or areas of outstanding natural beauty:

  • select the ‘land-based designations’ and ‘statutory’ options
  • tick the relevant designation

For SSSIs, SPAs, SACs or Ramsar wetlands:

  • select the ‘land-based designations’ and statutory options
  • tick the ‘SSSI impact risk zones’ option (you can download the impact risk zone data for your own software)

For marine protected areas:

  • select the ‘marine designations’ and ‘statutory’ options
  • tick the relevant marine option

Find out more information by selecting the ‘i’ icon at the top of the screen and clicking on the location of the planning proposals on the map.

You can also get advice from Natural England about:

Contact Natural England:

Consult the Environment Agency

You must consult the Environment Agency if your development:

  • includes:
    • land in flood zones 2 or 3
    • land in flood zone 1 and the Environment Agency have informed the local planning authority about critical drainage problems in this area
    • a building that will be used to handle, produce, use or store dangerous substances, or is within the area considered at risk if a major accident should happen there
  • could:
    • affect main rivers, groundwater or water quality
    • contaminate land or is on land affected by contamination
  • involves:
    • waste management (including sewage)
    • intensive pig, poultry or dairy units
    • mineral extraction

Contact the Environment Agency:

Consult the Marine Management Organisation

You must consult the Marine Management Organisation if the project is on the coast (eg it involves slipways, jetties and dredging).

Read about permits, consents and licences you might need for coastal developments.

EU funding for transport projects

Read guidance for getting Natural England’s sign off for European Union ‘connecting Europe’ funding, like the Trans European Transport Network (TEN-T) or the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).

Screen your proposal

When making your planning proposal you need to consider:

  • if your project needs an environmental impact assessment (EIA)
  • how your development will affect the environment
  • how you plan to reduce the harm to the environment

You can ask your LPA for advice.

You can ask the agencies for advice on your draft proposals. You’ll need to provide enough information for the agencies to provide advice.

They’ll respond to you within an agreed timescale.

The agencies might suggest you do surveys, like:

  • ecological surveys
  • tree surveys
  • agricultural land classification and soil resource surveys
  • landscape and visual impact assessments
  • flood risk assessments or assessments about the effects on water

Scope your proposal

You can ask your LPA for their opinion if screening determined that your project needs an EIA. They’ll give you advice on the information you need to put in your environmental statement.

Your LPA must then consult with the environmental agencies.

Write your environmental statement

You’ll need to make an environmental statement if your development needs an EIA.

Your environmental statement might need to include:

  • a foul drainage assessment (for non-mains drainage projects)
  • flood risk assessment for proposals within a flood zone or where there are other local flood risks
  • a water cycle study if the project has an effect on water supply, water quality or flooding
  • an assessment of the effect your development could have on water quality if there could be concerns about water supply, water quality or both
  • an assessment of the impact your development might have on protected landscapes, designated wildlife sites and protected species where relevant

You can consult environmental agencies before submitting your planning application. They can advise you about how to reduce harm to the environment. They will respond to you within an agreed timescale. You’ll need to pay for this advice.

Send your draft environmental statement to:

Natural England Email:

Natural England consultation service
Hornbeam House
Electra Way
Crewe Business Park

The Environment Agency Email:

Environment Agency
PO Box 544
S60 1BY

Your LPA must consult with the environmental agencies when assessing your environmental statement.

Get free advice

You can get advice from Natural England and the Environment Agency. Do this before submitting your planning application to reduce delays in the planning process.

Natural England’s free advice

You can get free advice from Natural England to check if your development will have a significant impact on protected sites and species.

Natural England will:

  • check whether your proposal will significantly affect a protected site or protected species
  • check whether your proposal will affect the best and most versatile agricultural land
  • advise on what you should include with your planning application

The Environment Agency’s free advice

You can get free online advice from the Environment Agency. You’ll need to pay for some information depending on how complicated the issues raised by your plan are.

The Environment Agency can tell you:

  • about environmental constraints on your development
  • if your development will affect the environment
  • the kind of information that they want you to include with your planning application
  • if you need an environmental licence or permit, and if there are likely to be any issues that could mean it is not able to grant a permit for you to operate your development

If you need an environmental permit

You can get Environment Agency advice on any environmental permits you’ll need for activities at your new site before you submit your permit or planning applications.

By getting advice, you’ll save time and money because you’ll find out what the conditions of the environmental permit are likely to be and how to factor them into your design.

You no longer have to have planning permission before applying for an environmental permit, but you can still get advice about environmental permits after you’ve submitted planning application.

You may have to pay £125 per hour for pre-application advice.

Complex activities and activities that affect protected sites and species

If your development needs both planning permission and an environmental permit it’s recommended that you submit your environmental permit application at the same time as your planning application (a ‘twin-track’ or ‘parallel tracking’ application). This can reduce duplication of information requests from you.

‘Twin tracking’ is recommended if:

  • your activity is large or complicated
  • there are protected habitats or species near the place you want to develop and the Environment Agency’s assessment shows your activity could have a significant effect on them

Nationally significant infrastructure projects

If your activity is part of a nationally significant infrastructure project, you’re advised to twin-track or apply for your environmental permit before you submit a development consent application.

The Planning Inspectorate will take the requirements of your permit into account when they’re considering your application

Pay for advice

Pay for advice from Natural England

You can pay for advice from Natural England if what you want to do is more complicated. Natural England can:

  • help you review your survey results
  • advise on your landscape and visual impact assessment
  • advise on your mitigation strategies to reduce damage to the environment

You’ll normally get this advice before you submit your planning application. In some cases, you can get advice during and after getting planning consent.

How much you’ll have to pay depends on:

  • the work you need to do, eg multiple mitigation strategies or several surveys
  • whether or not a Natural England adviser needs to visit your site

You’ll pay:

  • £500 per adviser for a 90 minute meeting at:
    • a Natural England office or via conference call
    • your office or development site
  • £110 per hour per adviser for each additional hour

If an adviser needs to travel to your office or development site you’ll pay adviser’s:

  • travel costs at 45p per mile
  • public transport, tolls and expenses over and above the mileage at cost
  • travel time as part of the hourly rate

You’ll pay £110 per hour if your request is more complicated. This includes:

  • reviewing a draft environmental statement
  • providing advice to reduce damage to protected sites and species
  • providing advice on your landscape and visual impact assessment

Complete the charged service request form and send to

Natural England will respond within 15 working days to:

  • confirm if the request is eligible
  • agree the scope of the works
  • provide a written quotation
  • agree a timetable

Read Natural England's terms and conditions for paid-for services (PDF, 140KB, 16 pages)

Pay for advice from the Environment Agency

You can pay for advice from the Environment Agency. They’ll tell you if your detailed proposals satisfactorily address any concerns they have.

You’ll usually need to pay £84 per hour per person.

Read Environment Agency’s terms and conditions for planning advice.