Get advice before you apply for an environmental permit

You can use the pre-application advice service to make sure your permit application is correct.

Applies to England

Before you apply for an environmental permit, the Environment Agency’s pre-application advice service can give you free:

  • basic advice
  • information on whether your activity may have an impact on heritage and nature conservation sites or protected species and habitats

It can also give you enhanced advice for more complex requests – this is a service you pay for.

Basic advice

You can get free basic pre-application advice on:

  • the type of permit you need – for example, if it’s a standard rules permit, a mobile plant permit (for waste activities), or a bespoke permit
  • which application forms you should use
  • what guidance you must follow
  • the correct application charge
  • if there are standard rules relevant to your activities and if you meet the criteria for them
  • risk assessments you may need to complete and send with your application
  • the administrative tasks the Environment Agency may need you to do as part of your application
  • whether ammonia from your intensive farm impacts the environment

Enhanced (paid-for) advice

If you need more in-depth advice, the Environment Agency offers an enhanced pre-application advice service. As well as the information you can get through the free service, this could cover advice on:

  • complex modelling
  • preparing risk assessments
  • specific substance assessments
  • monitoring requirements (including baseline)
  • complex application charge questions
  • parallel tracking for complex permits with planning applications
  • public engagement plans for high public interest applications
  • requirements of nationally significant infrastructure projects
  • how to get agreement to send your application information in stages if your application is complex and or uses novel technologies

The Environment Agency will tell you what kind of advice they can give you after you request help.

How much it costs

The enhanced service costs £100 an hour plus VAT.

You will get a written estimate before the Environment Agency starts work on your request. This will include:

  • a list of the work they will carry out, with costs
  • when you will be charged

If you (or someone else on your behalf) send new information related to your request, the Environment Agency may need to revise the estimate. They write to you to agree:

  • any changes to the scope of the work
  • the cost estimate

What the service cannot help with

The pre-application advice service cannot provide you with written confirmation to say that you:

  • do not need a permit
  • meet the general binding rules for discharges of waste water to surface water or ground

The service also cannot confirm that all or part of your permit application will be acceptable before you have applied.

Before you contact the service

First, check if you need an environmental permit for your activity.

Many common questions about permits are answered in the guidance on environmental permits. Check this before you contact the service. If your question is answered in this guidance, the service will ask you to read this instead.

Before you make your request, you should gather:

  • your details, including company number (if you have one) and site address
  • the 12-figure National Grid reference (such as ST 58132 72695) for the centre of your site, or for the locations where you intend to release (discharge) waste water – check this using the UK Grid Reference Finder
  • invoice details if you want enhanced advice
  • a reference number if your question relates to an existing permit or pre-application query

You may also find it useful to gather digital copies of your site plans.

If your request is to do with discharging waste water

You will also need to state in your request:

  • what you want to discharge – find out if it’s classed as domestic sewage
  • what treatment system you have or will have – find out if it’s a septic tank, sewage treatment plant or something else
  • if your treatment system meets the relevant British Standards – check the guidance if you intend to discharge to a surface water (such as a river, stream, estuary, lake, canal or coastal water) or the ground
  • the largest volume you are likely to discharge – calculate this using either the sewage discharges calculator for domestic properties or British Water’s Flows and Loads guidance
  • if the discharge is going to a surface water or into the ground – if going to a surface water, find out whether the watercourse dries up at any point in the year, and if going to a lake or pond, find out whether they are connected to another surface water or to the ground

The pre-application service will not be able to help if you do not know the answers to these questions. You can contact a drainage engineer or consultant for advice.

Contact the pre-application advice service

Fill in the form that’s most appropriate to your main activity:

If you carry out more than one of these activities at your site, making them one facility, then select the form for your main activity. You can get pre-application advice for all aspects of your facility.

If your operations are separate and not part of the same facility, you should ask for advice for each activity separately using the relevant forms.

What you will get

If you request basic advice, you will get a response within 20 working days (Monday to Friday). If you need enhanced advice, it is likely to take longer.

If the service can help, you will get the information by email.

If you cannot use the forms

If you cannot use or access the form you need, please contact the Environment Agency and they will send you a paper copy.

Published 11 August 2021
Last updated 21 February 2024 + show all updates
  1. Section 'Enhanced (paid-for) advice' added link to guidance about how to get agreement to send your application information in stages if your application is complex and or uses novel technologies.

  2. Under 'Contact the pre-application advice service' added 'intensive farming' to 'installation activities'.

  3. Under 'Basic advice' added 'the correct application charge' and 'whether ammonia from your intensive farm impacts the environment'.

  4. First published.