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SEPA Environmental Permitting

IN JANUARY 2017, SEPA AND THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT INITIATED A CONSULTATION TO TRANSFORM THE CURRENT ENVIRONMENTAL PERMITTING SYSTEM TO A MORE STANDARDISED, STREAMLINED AND TRANSPARENT PROCESS FOR COMPLYING WITH ENVIRONMENTAL LEGISLATION IN SCOTLAND.

In 2014, the Scottish Parliament passed the Regulatory Reform Act, granting SEPA a new statutory purpose – to “protect and improve the environment in ways that, as far as possible, create health and well-being benefits and sustainable economic growth.” These changes granted SEPA more power in enforcing and punishing environmental offences – including imposing fines of up to £40,000 on offenders. In January 2017, the Scottish Government – joined by SEPA – published a joint consultation to transform environmental permitting – bringing the Scotland’s environmental regulator closer to the original goals of the 2014 Regulatory Reform Act.

The proposed changes will unite the permitting procedures ofSEPA’s four regulatory areas – water, waste, radioactive substances and pollution prevention and control – under one, integrated authorisation framework (IAF). Designed to replace inconsistent, difficult-to-understand procedures across different regulatory regimes, these changes will help SEPA more effectively minimise the impact of activities on the environment. The question thousands of Scottish businesses and individuals will be asking, however, is ‘how will this affect my projects and developments?’

Clearer, simpler system – A consistent, transparent system for regulation across four key areas means understanding the requirements for compliance is far simpler, including what kind of authorisation is needed and what actions should to be taken. Achieving compliance is quicker, easier and more cost-effective for businesses due to a more efficient Integrated Authorisation Framework.

Supports innovation – SEPA plan to support businesses who look to innovative measures to go beyond compliance and develop sustainably, taking advantage of the respective benefits – including but not limited to the reduced costs, reduced supplychain risks and new markets associated with being a low-carbon, low-waste business.

Protected environments – Rather than focussing on routine activities, SEPA will specifically target environmental activities with the potential to cause harm to the environment, saving time, money, and protecting communities and the environment.

Stricter enforcement – With the main goal of further protecting the environment, these regulation changes will, naturally, mean SEPA will become more effective at holding businesses and their projects accountable – with punitive rights to fine offenders up to £40,000.

For exhaustive information on the upcoming environmental permitting changes, visit the Consultation on Proposals for an Integrated Authorisation Framework.

Along with the Integrated Authorisation Framework, SEPA has also outlined four tiers of authorisation. Each activity will be regulated at the lowest appropriate tier.

1. General Binding Rules cover low-risk activities. No contact with SEPA is necessary as long as these activities are carried out in accordance to the rules. These are authorised automatically.

2. Notifications also cover low-risk activities. However, SEPA is required to know the location of said activities to meet European Directive requirements.

3. Registrations cover activities where a simple assessment or online screening is required. An application is still necessary for activities that fall under registrations.

4. Permits are intended for high-risk activities where a more thorough assessment is needed. These include activities that require bespoke conditions or a consultation process.

VG Consulting has vast experience in dealing with SEPA regulations, and are experts in helping clients achieve compliance for their projects.

To ensure your project environmental permits meet SEPA regulations, contact our advisers at 01563 829 999.

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