The Increasing Complexities of Environmental Regulation

The Increasing Complexities of Environmental Regulation

Steph Charnaud from Enzygo looks at environmental legislation which impacts key sectors of industry and is becoming more complex and onerous despite being questioned during the Brexit debate given the strong EU influence on the rules in place.

South-Yorkshire based environmental consultants Enzygo provides environmental support to clients across the UK. Their Director of Environmental Permitting Steph Charnaud who previously worked for the Environment Agency for 15 years, outlines some of the key areas of regulation and some of the key issues.

What do you do at Enzygo?

Enzygo is a multi-disciplinary environmental consultancy specialising in providing technical services to the built environment sector ( . We work all over the UK, unlocking land for residential, commercial, industrial, waste, mineral and energy developments. We are a director- led business providing technical expertise to solve complex problems.

We pride ourselves in delivering complex schemes through our multidisciplinary model, which increasingly includes environmental permitting advice and support for clients in being able to operate the facilities that they are looking to develop.

What are the Key Areas that we operate in?

We have worked on many environmental regulation projects ranging from typical waste management facilities to high tech projects turning waste into synthetic transport fuels, and currently some priority projects needed to treat the huge quantities of clinical waste that are resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over the past few years we have seen a ratchetting up in regulatory complexity and requirements across all the sectors of industry that we work in – whether it’s from the requirement to regulate businesses that didn’t need permits previously, to an increase in the complexity of the applications that are needed for the Regulator such as climate change impacts, air quality, fire prevention, and other key areas of environmental impact assessment. The bottom line is it is getting more difficult and expensive to pass through the regulatory process!

The main areas of environmental permitting support generally relate to:

  • The waste management sector including waste handling, treatment and recycling, and energy generation from waste
  • The production of valuable products from waste – the argument of when does a waste become a product and therefore ‘fall out’ of Regulation is an interesting one!
  • Power generation – permitting of smaller gas and diesel fired power stations from 1MW upwards needed to balance the power grid at times of peak demand
  • Flood risk activities (formerly flood defence consent) when working close to a main river

Key Issues

Environmental Regulation and Permitting is controlled in England by the Environment Agency. One of their main National Permitting and Support Centres is based in Sheffield. Continued streamlining and efficiency savings set against increased regulation (and statutory fees!) has meant that the Regulator has become increasingly short of qualified and experienced personnel to manage such a degree of change. Getting your Environmental Permit applications is becoming increasingly time consuming when it was common only a few years ago (and in fact an Environment Agency target) to obtain a permit within three months it is now usual for this to take nine months or longer. With the preparation of complex applications with bags of technical information, developers should expect the entire permitting process to take over 12 months from start to finish.

What 5 Tips would you give to developers needing a Permit?

  1. Plan well ahead – consider the environmental permitting needs as part of your planning process. A number of the environmental assessments needed for your permit could also be done as part of the planning application
  2. Unless you have experience inhouse, engage with a specialist who understands the regulations, the regulator and permitting needs of your proposed business
  3. If the application is particularly complex then you need to engage with the Regulator early to ensure that the application provides them with everything they need otherwise it will take longer
  4. Ensure your project is sufficiently developed to enable the application to be prepared and submitted with the right level of information – if it’s not then your application may be rejected and lead to wasted costs or if it’s approved you will then have to vary it so it represents your site ‘as built’
  5. Depending on the complexity of the facility it is sensible to allow a year for the whole permitting process.

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