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Controlling polluting activities

Environmental Permits

Most activities that could pollute water are regulated under environmental permits. This includes things like large sewage treatment works. People or businesses wishing to carry out these kinds of activities must obtain a permit from the Environment Agency and comply with the conditions. If they do not, they will commit an offence. They could also face a notice requiring them to comply with the permit, or have their permit revoked or suspended. Permits are granted under the Environmental Permitting Regulations.

Getting involved

If you are concerned about a proposed activity or change to a current activity, there may be an opportunity to have your say.

The Environment Agency has to consult the public about permits that may have significant negative effects on the environment or human beings. It does this by informing people who it considers are likely to be affected by the activity about the permit application, or proposed changes to the permit. Look out for notices in the press, on the Environment Agency's website, or letters through the door. You will be given a chance to send in your views. Be sure to check the deadline for doing this. Reasons for objecting to a permit might include that the environmental impact would be unacceptable, or it would breach a requirement of a European Directive.

Read the Environment Agency's statement on how you can participate in environmental permit decisions

If the Environment Agency grants a permit, there is no right for objectors or third parties to appeal that decision. It may be possible to apply for judicial review on limited grounds. This can be a costly exercise, and you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.

If the Environment Agency refuses the permit, the person or business who applied for it may appeal. Appeals are usually dealt with by Planning Inspectors. As a third party, you would be given an opportunity to make representations about the appeal. You would be told how to do this.

Rules for particular activities

Special rules apply to some activities. For example:

  • the Nitrates Regulations set out lots of requirements and restrictions on how farmers can use nitrates fertilisers in certain areas, know as Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs). These Regulations give effect to the European Nitrates Directive 91/676/EEC.
  • the Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil Regulations (SSAFO Regulations) contain rules about how those substances can be stored.


Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010, SI 2010/675

The Nitrate Pollution Prevention Regulations 2015

Water Resources (Control of Pollution) (Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil) (England) Regulations 2010, SI 2010/639

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