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Support needed for regulations

The new Environmental Permitting Regulations (2010) are now with us. An update of the 2007 regulations, they specify which facilities require an Environmental Permit and allow some facilities to be exempt from those requirements – if they met the 6 April application deadline.

The regulations cover the vast majority of our sector – including composting, land spreading, land restoration, reclamation and improvement, use of waste for construction as well as metal recycling, manufacture and treatment of construction materials and timber products plus waste management and recycling.

To operate a facility covered under the legislation without a permit or exemption is an offence, as is “causing or knowingly permitting a water discharge activity or groundwater activity”. It means that we must now get to grips with the regulations and identify the challenges – and opportunities – that they bring with them.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that a piece of regulation that tries to cover such a wide variety of activities has come under fire from some quarters: the CLA (Country Land & Business Association) has criticised it’s approach to anaerobic digestion and the British Metals Recycling Association has also criticised the way new regulation is imposed on businesses which have been operating legally without permits for many years.

The changes bring together an on-going review of exemptions and a number of other regimes into one document. It’s good to see government trying to reduce the amount of regulation – even if these latest amendments do replace the existing 131 page 2007 regulations with a new 209 page document. After all, the 2007 regulations replace no fewer than 41 different pieces of separate legislation across the sector.

The opportunity for exemption applications has passed, so the task now is to focus on how the new regulations will affect those businesses that didn’t – or weren’t eligible to – apply for an exemption, which gave businesses the potential to secure up to 3.5 years of cost savings and give them more time to apply for an environmental permit and, where necessary, the relevant planning permission.

So what happens now? Permitting places greater demands in terms of infrastructure requirements; technical expertise and a requirement to obtain the relevant planning consent (in most cases) from the local authority before a permit will be granted from the Environment Agency.

There’s no doubt this can all seem daunting, but any businesses in our region not sure of their next steps can obtain free advice from the Environment Agency or CO2Sense Yorkshire. We want Yorkshire and Humber to make a smooth transition to the new permitting regime where possible.

The regulations seem to add a new layer of complexity to the issue of planning permission and materials processing – and also encompass some businesses which may be surprised to be included in what is seen as a piece of ‘waste’ regulation.

Take compost as an example. Farmers choosing to spread compost on their land will now require a permit to do so. Now however they can avoid this if they can show that the compost adheres to the PAS100 standard, which is increasingly available in our region in part as a result of the support available from WRAP and CO2Sense.

What we must do here is make sure that existing and prospective recyclers and users of recovered materials, including farmers, get the support they need to come to terms with these regulations. And that they know as much about the cost and environmental benefits these growing markets bring their businesses. This needs to be replicated across the sector to make sure that businesses gain from the opportunities presented rather than losing out because of misunderstanding and fear of regulation.

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