Environmental permitting and regulation

Regulation involves the control of certain activities. This often means establishing a set of rules about what is or is not allowed that is backed up by an enforcement regime including fines or criminal sanctions. Regulation often relies on standards, such as emissions, process or product standards. Standards can be set internationally, nationally, regionally or by sectors. Environmental regulation uses many regulatory tools, including consents and permits, but also subsidies, taxes and other incentives.

Environmental permitting is regulatory regime to address industrial pollution. Under environmental permitting, certain operators are required to apply for permits for some facilities or exemptions for others. Environmental permitting is linked to many other areas of environmental law, including water and waste management and pollution prevention and control. The activities requiring permits or exemptions include those undertaken by the energy industry, metals industry, minerals industry and chemical industry, waste operators, and water companies.

You can click on the headings below for an overview of environmental permitting across the four nations, and where to go for further information.


Law and policy 


Environmental permitting is a devolved matter and the current regime is based largely on retained EU law. The permitting system for England and Wales is set out in the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016; the Pollution Prevention and Control (Industrial Emissions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013/160 for Northern Ireland; and the Environmental Authorisations (Scotland) Regulation 2018 for Scotland.


The Environment Agency has primary responsibility for the environmental permitting regime in England. Local authorities also have some responsibilities in regard to smaller installations. Information on rules for different activities can be found here.

Northern Ireland

The Department for Agriculture, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has responsibility for environmental permitting. Further information can be found here.


The Scottish Environment Protection Agency is the responsible body for environmental permitting in Scotland. Further information on authorisations and permits can be found here.


Natural Resources Wales regulates environmental permitting in Wales. Further information can be found here.

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