Permits and Licences

Environmental legislation in England and Wales is broadly similar to that which applies in Ireland.   Much of the legislation has a common European Union origin. Environmental legislation was reformed and streamlined in April 2008.  Existing pollution prevention and control permits and waste management licences automatically became  “environmental permits” on that date.

Environmental permits are required for a wide range of industrial activities and waste material.   Activities involving energy, combustion, metal production or processing, minerals, chemicals, waste activities or solvents will typically require permits.  The Environmental Agency is the main environmental regulator.  Local authorities and water companies deal with some types of authorisation.

Water Pollution

Businesses releasing any potential pollutant thing into water require an environmental authorisation. This includes:-

  • Discharging anything other than clean water into surface water or groundwater;
  • Discharging trade effluent into sewers;
  • Use of significant quantities of water from surface water or groundwater;

There are strict controls on discharging substances or materials into land surface waters or ground waters.  A permit is required if anything other than clean uncontaminated water is discharged into surface waters or ground waters. The Environmental Agency can issue a discharge, consent groundwater authorisation or environmental permit.  The type of authorisation required will depend on circumstances of the disposal.

Consent is required or an agreement must be entered with the water company before trade discharge effluent is discharged into a foul sewer.  Trade effluent is any liquid waste resulting from non-domestic or industrial activity including waste soil, processed waste, detergents, condensed water, cooling and washed water, biodegradable liquids, liquid waste.

Air pollution

It is an offence for factories and trade premises to emit dark smoke from their chimneys under the Clean Air Act except where it is unavoidable. Current technology should allow efficient combustion, free of dark smoke at all times. Dark smoke emissions from open burning (bonfires) on industrial or trade premises (including demolition sites) or agricultural land are also prohibited, except in very limited circumstances.

The amount of grit and dust emitted from the chimney of non-domestic boilers and some furnaces is controlled by the Clean Air Act. Newly installed industrial plants must have adequate arrestment equipment. Where emissions from a plant appear excessive a local authority can require measurements to be made of emissions to the atmosphere.

Industrial Processes

Industrial processes are now regulated by the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) regulations. These regulations were phased in sector-by-sector up to October 2007. IPPC covers a wide range of industries, including fuel production and power generation, metal production and processing, mineral industries, chemical industries, waste disposal and recycling, food and drinks processing and intensive livestock installations.

All industries covered by IPPC, must obtain a permit to operate from the appropriate regulator. This covers all aspects of an installation’s activities, including noise and vibration, heat, energy efficiency and accident prevention policy. For new installations, an environmental impact assessment must also be available.

Permit conditions are based on the use of Best Available Techniques (BAT), which balances the cost to the operators against benefits to the environment. Where a breach of legally binding EU air quality limit values is caused by a particular industrial installation or sector more stringent permit limits than BAT can be imposed.

Certain installations are regulated for emissions to air, water and land by the Environment Agency, with a lesser number of smaller, or less complex, installations regulated by local authorities. A number of smaller installations are regulated for their emissions to air only. These installations include many solvent using processes, timber activities and crematoria, and are regulated by local authorities.


It is necessary to register with the Environmental Agency in order to transport, deal or arrange in the disposal of controlled waste.  Commercial, industrial and household waste are classified as controlled.  It is necessary to register if one is a waste carrier or a waste broker.  A waste broker includes dealers who require waste and sell it on.

Any business that generates, stores, handles or disposes of waste is subject to specific responsibilities. Waste could include a range of matters such as building materials, packaging or retail business, paper in an office based business, rubble, timber and plastic in construction, trade effluent or old electrical equipment.

There are duties to ensure that waste is handled safely and in compliance with specific regulations.  It is necessary to ensure that anyone else with whom one deal has the necessary authorisations. The business itself must have authorisation.

Waste must be stored securely in appropriate containers.  Where waste is sent for disposal, it must be handled by an authorised organisation such as a local authority or a registered contractor. When waste is transferred to another person or organisation it is necessary to have a valid waste transfer note.  It is possible to have individual notes or a note to cover multiple transfers.

If waste is sent to a landfill for disposal it must be pre-treated to minimise its impact on the environment.  It is not permissible to incinerate waste on business premises without a licence.

Hazardous Waste

If hazardous waste is produced, it is necessary to register the premises including ships and other forms of transportation with the Environmental Agency. There are certain conditions which apply. Hazardous waste can not leave the premises, registered or otherwise, without a consignment note. This is used to track movements.

Waste is considered hazardous if it is harmful to human health or the natural environment.  Hazardous waste includes used lead batteries, fluorescent light tubes, certain electrical equipment, waste oil, solvents, asbestos.

Hazardous waste registration is more stringent.  It is necessary to register with the Environmental Agency before waste is moved from premises.  There are requirements in relation to storage of hazardous waste. Written instructions must be given to an employee as to how to store and dispose of the waste.  An inventory must be drawn up of waste in case emergency services require it.

Hazardous waste must be inspected at least weekly.   Hazardous waste can only be transported by an organisation authorised to do so.  It can only be disposed of as soon as the authorities accept the same. A consignment note must be completed when hazardous/special waste is moved and kept for three years.


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