Amended permitting regulations to be laid in 2014

By Will Date

The government is to press ahead with proposed amendments to the environmental permitting regime, intended to reduce the regulatory burden on businesses in the sector, Defra has confirmed.

Responses to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs consultation on Draft Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2013, were published this morning (December 10), with the government keen to lay the new regulations in Parliament early in 2014.

Among the amendments are plans to allow waste site operators to apply for environmental permits before a site has been granted planning permission
Among the amendments are plans to allow waste site operators to apply for environmental permits before a site has been granted planning permission

Reforms to the permitting system are among a raft of changes to environmental laws intended to reduce the burden of regulation on businesses under the Red Tape Challenge. Plans were published yesterday outlining proposed changes to the Waste Transfer Note (WTN) system (see letsrecycle.com story).

Among the permitting amendments being pursued by Defra is a removal of the requirement for businesses to have to secure planning permission for certain waste operations before an environmental permit can be issued.

It is hoped that the changes could speed up the permitting process, with the Environment Agency estimating that as many as 10% of all permit applications are delayed due to the status of planning permission not being known when a permit is applied for.

Flexibility

The proposal was welcomed by those responding to the consultation from the waste sector, who said that it would offer greater flexibility in being able to sequence applications for planning and environmental permissions according to business need.

Elsewhere, proposals to streamline the permit information register by removing the requirement for local authorities to maintain databases duplicating the contents of records held by the Environment Agency are also to be brought in. In future, information on environmental permits will be held in a single register, overseen by the Environment Agency.

But, Defra has said that plans to simplify the appeal process for rejected permit applications, by moving appeal decisions from the remit of Planning Inspectorate to the environmental jurisdiction of the First Tier Tribunal (FTT), will have to be examined in more detail.

Appeals

The government had proposed to pass the responsibility for overseeing appeal hearings to the FTT a civil sanctions body made up of judges and expert counsel in order to provide greater industry knowledge to the permitting appeals system.

However, concerns were raised during the consultation process, in particular over plans to reduce the amount of time that businesses have to lodge appeals over an application from six months to 28 days.

Publication of the responses follows an eight week consultation into the draft proposals which began in February 2013 with the amended regulations originally scheduled to come into effect by October 2013 (see letsrecycle.com story).

Estimates published in the consultation document stated that the measures could provide savings of between 3.2 and 3.7 million for the regulatory bodies. The proposals would also bring the waste management operations in line with other activities that are subject to environmental permitting.

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