Guidance

Environmental protection inspection

Information for farmers about inspections the Environment Agency carries out to prevent and control pollution, and check permits and licence conditions.

Who gets inspected

Any farm is eligible for inspection by the Environment Agency as all farms have the potential to cause pollution.

If you have permits and licences regulated by the Environment Agency, your farm may get more frequent inspections as a requirement of the permit or licence.

You may also be visited if a pollution incident is thought to be on or caused by your farm following an inspection or report.

Inspectors may combine their visit with an intensive pig and poultry permit inspection.

What gets inspected

Inspectors may carry out a visual inspection of your farm premises and selected field activities. They may inspect your records or management plans - you’ll normally be told which records will be inspected before the visit.

They may also check that you’re following any Environment Agency permit or licence conditions.

What’s looked at depends on the reason for the inspection, but most inspections will cover pollution prevention and control. For example, identifying any potentially polluting materials on your farm, how you’re managing them and discuss how to stop them causing pollution.

Inspectors may also look at things depending on:

  • your farm’s location
  • your farming activities
  • any permits or licences you hold
  • the known impact of agricultural pollution in the river catchments you farm in

Inspectors may check you’re following any of the following regulations if it’s relevant to the reason they selected your farm for inspection:

  • Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs)
  • Environmental Permitting Regulations (EPR) groundwater permits
  • abstraction licensing
  • sludge and industrial waste land spreading deployments
  • Sludge (Use in Agriculture) Regulations
  • EPR intensive pig and poultry permits
  • agricultural waste exemptions
  • hazardous waste
  • Water Resources (Control of Pollution) (Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil) (England) Regulations (SSAFO)

Time and length

An inspection takes on average 2.5 hours. You’ll get up to 14 days’ notice of a planned inspection. This is not possible if the Environment Agency is responding to a pollution incident.

Inspectors will try to avoid visiting you during busy times in the farm calendar.

Certain permits and licences have set inspection frequencies. For example, if you have a groundwater permit inspectors will visit every 6 years.

What happens next

The Environment Agency will send you a letter after the visit telling you about any issues the inspectors found and what corrective action you need to take.

If the inspectors found non-compliances the Environment Agency may give you one or more of the following, depending on the severity of the non-compliance, any pollution caused and any actions you take to become compliant:

  • verbal advice
  • warning letter
  • caution
  • serve a notice

The Environment Agency will prosecute in some cases.

Published 12 January 2016