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Changes coming soon to old Environmental Permits

I still find the differences between modern and older environmental permits very interesting. Older permits often focus on the detail of operating a site, for example prescribing who will do what, how and where things will be stored, and what time the site will close. Many were designed to be stand-alone documents.

Modern environmental permits are broader and more ‘light touch’, often leaving the nitty gritty of day to day operations to environmental management plans and systems that sit alongside the permit.

On the 7th of April 2019, at least for waste operations, that is going to change.  

Written management systems

From 7 April 2019 operators of waste sites who hold an environmental permit issued before 6 April 2008 (the day the Environmental Permitting Regulations first came into force) must have a written management system in place, which identifies and minimises the risks of pollution from their waste operation.

The pollution risks which the written management system must address include risks from the operation itself, accidents and incidents, non-compliance with the environmental permit, complaints and risks arising from site closure.

The written management system must be reviewed ‘from time to time’ and kept up to date.  Those reviews should be in writing. 

Operators are also required to keep a written record of the activities which they carry out under their permit.

These changes are under Regulation 4(5) of the Environmental Protection (Miscellaneous Amendments) (England and Wales) Regulations 2018/1227.

Operator’s qualifications (‘Operator Competence’)

It will also be compulsory for sites which carry out waste management activities as their primary purpose to show that they have one of the following qualifications:

  1. CIWM/WAMITAB Operator Competence Scheme, Version 9, September 2018; or
  2. Competence Management System: Requirements, Version 4, April 2015

Where the operator is a company, an employee should hold such a qualification.  Where the operator is a sole trader, the regulator will probably expect the operator to hold the qualification, but it may be acceptable for a site manager of supervisor to hold it instead.

This information must be given to the Environment Agency in England or NRW in Wales alongside the quarterly or annual return.  It must also state where the operator did not comply with this requirement.

So, what does this mean for holders of older permits?  Well, the good news is that if you fail to comply, you do not commit an offence.  At least for now. 

The bad news is that if you haven’t started working towards your qualifications, they do take months rather than weeks to obtain (or sometimes longer) so there is no time to lose.  The regulator is going to want to see progress. 

While this change brings old and new permits more in line with each other, there are two interesting differences in most cases;

  1. If you have an old permit you cannot be prosecuted for not having a written management system. You could be prosecuted for not having one if you have a modern permit. 
  2. If you have a written management system in place but you do not comply with it, you cannot be prosecuted if you have an old permit, but you could if you have a newer permit.

New fines for householders

These regulations also introduce fixed penalty notices of between £150 and £400 where householders do not ensure that their waste is dealt with appropriately.  Often householders allow unregistered waste collectors to take their waste away, and it ends up being fly tipped once anything of value had been removed.  This is in breach of a householder’s duty of care under S34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. 

If you are a householder with waste to be removed, make sure you ask to see the waste carrier’s registration and find out where the waste is going.  You should always get a waste transfer note from the skip operator or the haulier.  Make sure it is filled in properly and signed.

Click here for as copy of the Regulations.

For more information or for assistance on preparing a written operating system, or for a list of training providers, please contact me on 0113 249 4072 or

Craig advises on contentious and non-contentious environmental, health and safety and regulatory matters.  He assists a broad range of public and private sector clients on matters including environmental and health and safety incidents, investigations and prosecutions, civil sanctions, flood and drainage law, contaminated land, environmental permit and regulatory compliance, packaging waste, fracking, noise, odour, nuisance and all types of pollution incidents.  

About the Author

Craig Burman


Craig advises on contentious and non-contentious environmental, health and safety and regulatory matters. …

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