Legal operator and competence requirements: environmental permits

Find out the legal, financial and professional requirements for operators and managers, including extra duties for waste activity operators.

You must fulfill certain criteria if you want to apply for and keep an environmental permit.

For all environmental permits you must be:

If you operate a waste activity you also need to:

Check if you need an environmental permit if you’re not sure whether you need an environmental permit.

You must be the legal operator of the activity or facility that you want a permit for.

This means you must have ‘sufficient control’ of the activity or facility. You must, for example:

  • have day-to-day control of the facility or activity, including the manner and rate of operation
  • make sure that permit conditions are complied with
  • decide who holds important staff positions and have incompetent staff removed, if required
  • make investment and financial decisions that affect the facility’s performance or how the activity is carried out
  • make sure your activities are controlled in an emergency

If contractors work at your site, you can still be classed as the legal operator if you have sufficient control of the activities carried out by your contractors. But if things change and the contractor takes over sufficient control of the activities, you must apply to have the permit transferred to them.

A remote holding company is unlikely to have sufficient control.

If you’re no longer the operator, you must apply to formally transfer your permit to the person who is the operator.

If you continue to operate an activity when you’re no longer the legal operator, the Environment Agency may take enforcement action against you or revoke your permit. Find out more about enforcement and how you’ll be regulated by the Environment Agency once you have your permit.

You must apply as a ‘legal entity’ that can be legally responsible for the permit and can accept liability, for example:

  • an individual
  • public limited company
  • private limited company
  • government body (such as local authorities, NHS Trusts, Food Standards Agency)
  • limited liability partnership

As the operator, you’re legally responsible for the activity whether or not it’s in operation.

Your application can be refused if the Environment Agency does not consider you to be the operator or a legal entity.

Joint operators of one activity

If your activity has more than one operator acting together, you need to make one joint application for all the operators. For example, if several people jointly operate an intensive farming activity, the Environment Agency will name them all on the permit.

You must demonstrate that the applicants have joint control of the activity.

Separate operators of one activity

If different operators separately run different parts of an activity (such as a large factory plant where different activities or processes on site are managed and operated by separate companies), each must apply for a separate permit. Each application must demonstrate that the operator is in control of that part of the facility.

In the case of an installation, all the applications must:

  • be made at the same time
  • identify any inter-relationships between the different operators and their facilities

For example, if one operator’s output material feeds into a process run by another operator on the same site, then the point where the responsibility for the material moves from one to the other must be made clear in the information supplied by both applications. There should be no ambiguity over which operator has responsibility for which part of the regulated facility.

What a competent operator is

When considering your application for a permit, or to transfer or change (vary) a permit, the Environment Agency will look at whether you’re competent enough to comply with the conditions that are likely to be included in your permit.

Your permit application will be refused if the Environment Agency thinks you will not be able to comply with the conditions.

Once you have your permit, if the Environment Agency thinks you’re no longer a competent operator it may take enforcement action against you or revoke your permit.

Technical competence

You must demonstrate that you have the technical competence to carry out your activity.

For example you know how to:

  • operate the necessary equipment
  • comply with the law and government policies
  • minimise risk and the impact of your activity on people and the environment

In most cases you can demonstrate this through your management system.

If you carry out an activity that involves the recovery or disposal of waste (including waste activities carried out by certain installations), it is government policy that you must also be a member of a government approved scheme.

Environmental record

When considering your application, or reviewing your competence once you have a permit, the Environment Agency will look at your environmental record. They will look at:

  • how you responded to any accidents at sites that you’ve operated in the past
  • if you have any previous convictions for environmental offences
  • your record of compliance with your permit or other permits (for example whether you’ve received warnings or enforcement notices and how you responded to them)

Financial competence

You must have the finances to carry out your operations and meet your permit conditions.

If you’re applying for a waste, mining waste or installation permit, the application form will ask if you’ve ever been bankrupt or insolvent.

Financial provision

You need to make ‘financial provision’ (a guarantee) if you operate:

  • a landfill
  • a Category A or hazardous waste mining facility

If your business stops operating, you will then have enough money set aside to carry out the actions needed before you can surrender your permit.

Financial provisions for Category A or hazardous waste mining facilities

Your financial guarantee must ensure that:

  • obligations arising from a permit are fulfilled
  • it’s sufficient in monetary terms, secure and available when required
  • all aftercare costs will include a contingency sum that will remain after the period covered by detailed costings - in case additional expenditure is required
  • amounts of financial guarantees will be calculated based on third party costs and a contingency element

Qualifications required by waste activity managers

If you have an environmental permit for a waste operation, or certain installations, you must join and comply with the requirements of one of these 2 government approved schemes:

  • the scheme run jointly by the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) and Waste Management Industry Training and Advisory Board (WAMITAB)

  • the Energy & Utility sector Skills Council (EU Skills) - a scheme run jointly by EU Skills and the Environmental Services Association (ESA)

You must say which scheme you’re part of on your application form. The Environment Agency will check your application with the scheme you identify. Once your permit is issued, you must also give this information when you submit your waste returns.

Each scheme operates in a different way.

CIWM and WAMITAB scheme

If you join the CIWM and WAMITAB scheme, your managers will need to work towards gaining the scheme’s qualifications.

You’ll already be part of this scheme if the following apply:

  • the Environment Agency assessed you as technically competent before qualifications for your activity existed
  • you were ‘deemed’ competent when the Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994 came into force because you were already managing a waste site

The Environment Agency assessment, or the ‘deemed’ competency, are still valid and you can be named as the technically competent person for that same activity on new applications.

In all cases, if you’re part of this scheme you need to pass a continuing competency assessment every 2 years.

You must include the names of your managers and the qualifications they hold in your management system if you’re part of this scheme.

EU Skills scheme

The EU Skills scheme considers the competence of your business as a whole. To join this scheme you need to have a competence management system in place and this must be certified by one of the scheme’s approval bodies.

Deadline for meeting scheme requirements

Your company needs to have WAMITAB qualifications or the EU skills certified competence management system in place before you can apply:

  • to have a permit varied or transferred to you
  • for a new permit for a landfill site

If you’re applying for a new permit for a waste site that’s not a landfill site, you have up to 12 months to put these things in place as long as you meet the minimum requirements set out in either of the 2 schemes.

Record the operating hours of your waste facility

These requirements do not apply if you are a member of the EU Skills scheme.

Each day you must record:

  • the hours of operation of your site
  • when your manager arrives and leaves

Your site is operational when you’re carrying out any activity covered by your permit.

You will need to use these records to make sure your manager meets the attendance requirements explained in the next section.

You must make the records available to the Environment Agency on request.

How much time your technically competent manager must be on site

These requirements do not apply if you are a member of the EU Skills scheme.

Your technically competent manager must be on site for the required time each week (also called ‘attendance requirement’). If they take time off, you must arrange cover for them.

For your manager to be ‘technically competent’ they must join and comply with one of the government approved schemes.

The attendance requirement in the first 6 months of operation depends on what permit you have. At the end of the first 6 months you’ll need to agree your manager’s attendance with the Environment Agency.

Check what permit you have

Your manager must attend the site at least 20% of the operating time in the first 6 months if you’ve got:

  • a standard rules permit
  • any other permit applied for before 1 April 2018 that had a fixed application charge

Attendance in the first 6 months for other permits

In the first 6 months after you start operating or carrying out a new permitted activity, your manager’s attendance requirement depends on the environmental risk posed by your site.

Work out the attendance requirement by following these steps.

  1. Look up your Opra complexity, location and emissions bands in the Opra risk appraisal guidance.
  2. Use the lists below to see how many ‘attendance points’ you get for complexity, location and emissions.
  3. Add the points and check the final list to see how much time your manager needs to be on site each week.

Note your points for complexity if you run a waste operation:

  • band A - 1
  • band B - 2
  • band C - 2
  • band D - 3
  • band E - 4

Note your points for complexity if you run an installation:

  • band A - 2
  • band B - 3
  • band C - 3
  • band D - 4
  • band E - 4

Note your points for location:

  • band A - 1
  • band B - 2
  • band C - 2
  • band D - 3
  • band E - 4

Note your points for emissions:

  • band A - 1
  • band B - 2
  • band C - 3
  • band D - 4
  • band E - 4

Using your total attendance points, note the percentage of site operation time your manager needs to be on site each week:

  • 3 points - 5%
  • 4 points - 10%
  • 5 points - 15%
  • 6 points - 20%
  • 7 points - 25%
  • 8 points - 30%
  • 9 points - 35%
  • 10 points - 40%
  • 11 points - 45%
  • 12 points - 50%
  • more than 12 points - 55%

If you operate 2 separate facilities on the same site, calculate your attendance points total for both activities, and use the higher number.

If you carry out more than 1 waste activity on your site, calculate your complexity score for each activity, then 1 location and 1 emissions score and add them all together to get your attendance points total.

48-hour attendance cap

Your manager does not need to attend a site for more than 48 hours per week, regardless of how long your plant is operational, or your points total.

Attendance requirements during normal operation

After the first 6 months of operations, if it feels you have a satisfactory management system in place, the Environment Agency will agree with you what your continuing attendance requirements will be.

If you get a compliance rating score of more than 16 in any quarter, you must return to the attendance requirements of your first 6 months of operation. You must keep to that initial attendance requirement until the Environment Agency informs you otherwise.

Your compliance rating score is based on the Environment Agency’s compliance classification scheme. For example, your score would be over 16 if you have either:

  • 5 or more category 3 breaches in the same quarter
  • 1 or more incidents of category 2 non-compliance

Attendance requirements at closed landfills

You must continue to meet the attendance requirement if your permit states you need to actively manage landfill gas or leachate (or both) at the closed site.

You do not need to meet the attendance requirement if:

  • active management of the closed site is not a permit requirement
  • the site is in after care and active management has stopped


Contact the Environment Agency if you need help with your application.

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Published 1 February 2016
Last updated 11 June 2019 + show all updates
  1. Updated the qualifications required section - the Environment Agency will check your application with the scheme you join. You must also give this information when you submit your waste returns.

  2. Amended to explain the required attendance of your technically competent manager in the first 6 months of operations if you've got a standard rules permit or any other permit that was applied for before 1 April 2018 with a fixed application charge.

  3. First published.