How you'll be regulated: environmental permits

Find out about Compliance Assessment Reports, assessments, inspections and permit reviews, and what the Environment Agency will do if you do not 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 is not a competent operator.

Management system for waste activities

From 7 April 2019, if you have a waste permit that was granted before 6 April 2008 you’ll need to manage and operate your waste activity in line with a written management system.

The amount of information you’ll need in your management system will depend on how complicated and risky your activities are.

Your management system must include the risks of pollution from:

  • your operations (including maintenance)
  • an accident or incident
  • failing to comply with, or from a contravention of your environmental permit
  • anything identified following a complaint
  • closing the operation

You must review your management system regularly. Include records of:

  • activities carried out in line with your management system
  • any reviews or updates

This does not affect permitted waste operations which are carried out at installations or through part B mobile plant.

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 activity or groundwater activity

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 and groundwater activities, like large sewage treatment plants, will definitely be assessed or inspected.

You’re likely to be inspected if you discharge to surface waters or groundwater in a sensitive or vulnerable area, like a groundwater source protection zone.

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

The Environment Agency does one compliance check for a flood risk activity permit unless the activity is ongoing. See the environmental permitting charges guidance for more information about how we charge for this.

Read the guidance on how the Environment Agency sets and assesses site-specific discharge quality numeric permit limits to surface water and groundwater.

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 does not comply with your permit and state what you have to do to correct this. For waste and installations this may affect your yearly permit fee (subsistence fee). See the compliance rating guidance for more information.

The Environment Agency uses a standard approach called the Compliance Classification Scheme to classify permit breaches.


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)

Permit reviews

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.

General enquiries

National Customer Contact Centre
PO Box 544
S60 1BY


Telephone 03708 506 506

Telephone from outside the UK (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm GMT) +44 (0) 114 282 5312

Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.

Due to the current health emergency we have reduced the times our phone lines are open. This is under review and we hope to be able to extend them soon. If possible please contact us by email at

The impact of COVID-19 on our teams means you may experience some delays in responses as most of our staff will be working from home. We are currently unable to deal with post sent to our offices in the usual way.

Published 1 February 2016
Last updated 14 January 2019 + show all updates
  1. From 7 April 2019, if you have a waste permit that was granted before 6 April 2008 you'll need to manage and operate your waste activity in line with a written management system. We've added information about this under a new section, 'Management system for waste activities'.

  2. Page updated with a link to the document about recording non-compliance using the Compliance Classification Scheme (CCS): The Environment Agency uses the CCS to classify permit breaches.

  3. We added a link to new content for site-specific quality numeric compliance limits for water discharge activity and groundwater activity permits.

  4. Text updated to provide clarity on compliance arrangements for flood risk activities.

  5. 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.

  6. Flood risk activities added.

  7. First published.