How you'll be regulated: environmental permits
- Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and Environment Agency
- Part of:
- Business and the environment, Flooding and coastal change, Environmental permits, and Flooding and coastal change
- First published:
- 1 February 2016
- Last updated:
- 22 March 2017, see all updates
- Applies to:
- England (see guidance for Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales)
Find out about Compliance Assessment Reports, assessments, inspections and permit reviews, and what the Environment Agency will do if you don't follow the rules.
You must follow all the conditions of your permit. The Environment Agency will check you’re complying with your permit and you’re continuing to be a competent operator.
They can revoke your permit if they decide you’re not a suitable operator.
If you apply to transfer a waste, mining waste or installations permit to another person, the Environment Agency can reject the application if they decide the person isn’t a competent operator.
Assessments and inspections
Your operation may be checked by the Environment Agency by:
- an assessment - a desk based check of whether you’re complying with your permit, for example checking you’re sending in required information
- an inspection - where an officer visits your site
- sampling of your permitted water discharge
Inspections are usually planned, but can be unannounced. Environment Agency staff will look around your site and ask questions about what you’re doing. They may ask to see documents or talk to your staff.
Where possible, the Environment Agency will work with other Defra regulators, such as the Rural Payments Agency, to co-ordinate inspections and keep the number of visits you receive to a minimum.
Waste operations, installations, complex flood risk activities and complex water discharges activities, like large sewage treatment plants, will definitely be assessed or inspected.
Other sites may be assessed or inspected if there’s:
- a pollution incident at your site, or in your area
- a flood incident at your site (for flood risk activities)
- been a complaint about your activity
Flood risk activity permits will always have a desk based check as a minimum.
The Environment Agency does one compliance check for a flood risk activity permit unless the activity is ongoing. See the charges scheme for more information about how we charge for this.
Compliance Assessment Reports
If Environment Agency staff carry out an assessment, inspection or attend an incident, they will complete a Compliance Assessment Report (CAR) and give you a copy.
The CAR will record anything you’re doing that doesn’t comply with your permit and state what you have to do to correct this.
You’ll also be given a score for any permit conditions you’re not complying with. This score will be part of your overall compliance score and may affect your yearly permit fee (subsistence fee).
The Environment Agency may take action if they suspect you’ve broken the law, or in some cases if they think you’re about to. Their actions might include:
- giving you advice
- changing your permit conditions
- serving you with an enforcement notice, and for flood risk activities a remediation notice, which will state what you have to do to fix problems and by when
- serving you with a suspension notice if there’s a risk you might cause pollution - this means you have to stop carrying out your activities
- prosecuting you if they think it’s in the public interest
The Environment Agency can carry out work to address an environmental, flood risk or land drainage problem and recover costs from you if:
- your activity has caused serious pollution
- your activity is creating a risk of serious pollution
- you’ve deposited waste illegally and not removed it when told to
- you’ve caused polluting substances to get into a watercourse or the substances are in a place where they are likely to get into a watercourse - or you’ve knowingly allowed this to happen
- you have carried out any unauthorised works or caused harm to flood risk, land drainage or the environment (for flood risk activities)
The Environment Agency regularly reviews all the permits granted for a particular sector, to check that they reflect the latest regulations and environmental standards. You’ll be told if permits for your sector are being reviewed and what that means for you.
The Environment Agency can also review your individual permit if you’re not complying with it. You may have to apply for a change to your permit, or you may get new conditions.
Changes to standard rules permits
If you have a standard rules permit, the Environment Agency can change the conditions of its rule set.
Before the Environment Agency changes a rule set, they will hold a consultation and write to any permit holders who could be affected by the changes.
They will give you 3 months to comply with the new conditions.
Contact the Environment Agency if you have questions about your permit or how they will regulate you.
National Customer Contact Centre
PO Box 544
Telephone 03708 506 506
Telephone from outside the UK (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm GMT) +44 (0) 114 282 5312
Minicom (for the hard of hearing) 03702 422 549
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
Published: 1 February 2016
Updated: 22 March 2017
- Text updated for clarity: The Environment Agency does one compliance check for a flood risk activity permit unless the activity is ongoing. See the charges scheme for more information about how we charge for this.
- Flood risk activities added.
- First published.