The British Metal Recycling Association has warned that if the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs plans to change permit regulations for scrap metal yards go ahead up to 300 metal recycling businesses could be pushed into requiring evidence of planning permission.
Defra has been working with the Environment Agency and the Welsh Assembly Government in order to tidy up permitting regulations. However, the BMRA is concerned about the possibility that the scrap metal exemption (Schedule 3, Paragraph 45) in the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2007 will be withdrawn meaning some metal recyclers will have to apply for permits, which could also mean applying for retrospective planning permission for many of them.
BMRA director general Ian Hetherington said: If well established businesses have to apply for planning permission after all these years it is possible the local authority may not grant it. We may find some metal recyclers forced to either go through a costly planning appeal or close down.
Originally introduced in 1995 in the Waste Management Licensing Regulations, and still in use today under EPR, the Paragraph 45 exemption allows scrap metal merchants with a capacity of up to 50,000 tonnes of metal, to be exempt from needing an environmental permit. Under this, operators register each year with the Environment Agency and pay a registration fee to cover the cost of inspection. If Defra repeals Paragraph 45 then many will have to apply for a permit, in which they will also need to prove their planning permission.
Defra said it is investigating how many of the 900 sites currently operating under the exemption do not have formal planning approval. It added: We consulted on proposed changes to the existing exemptions that will provide new and amended exemptions for many. However, the consultation proposed that some large scale and higher risk activities including the paragraph 45 exemption are restricted in their scope or phased out so that operators will instead need to obtain an environmental permit.
This is to allow a more risk-based approach to the assessment of operations before they start and to the nature and extent of Agency inspection and compliance monitoring. There have also been calls to tighten the regulation of this sector because of the growth in metal crime.
Environment Agency policy advisor Clive Humphreys said: Last years consultation on Revised Waste Exemptions from Environmental Permitting put forward the recommendation of allowing scrap yards dealing with up to 15,000 tonnes of scrap metal at any one time to remain under the exemption. Consultation responses will be taken into account when deciding what the limit should be. The aim is to ensure that activities posing little or no risk to the environment can continue to benefit from the exemptions.
Ministers are to decide on the final form of the Regulations shortly.