Permitting publication scheme

Our duty to provide information about permit applications and permitting decisions

Introduction

Our purpose is to ensure that the environment and natural resources of Wales are sustainably maintained, enhanced and used, now and in the future. We aim to improve the environmental, economic and social outcomes for Wales through our wide range of services and responsibilities. Sustainable Development is our central organising principle.

We have a very broad range of duties, roles and responsibilities. We are a key environmental advisor to Government, and to other public decision makers such as Local Planning Authorities. We develop and maintain flood defences, and respond to flooding and environmental incidents including issuing flood warnings to communities at risk. We manage the public forest estate, and protect designated sites including Sites of Special Scientific Interest, EU designated sites and National Nature Reserves.

We are the principal environmental regulator in Wales, covering a wide range of sectors and activities. These include:

  • major industrial processes (e.g. power stations, iron and steel processes)
  • tree felling
  • work on designated sites or with protected species
  • discharges to water
  • marine licensing
  • water abstraction and impoundment
  • flood risk activities
  • inshore and freshwater commercial fisheries
  • radioactive substances
  • and a range of European schemes such as emissions trading and producer responsibility

We always strive to make doing business with us an easy process and to provide a high standard of customer care. In anticipation of implementing our customer care strategy, we are seeking to make access to information on our permitting schemes as customer friendly as possible, because your experience and satisfaction as a customer is important to us.

Natural Resources Wales is committed to maximising openness, accountability and transparency in all of our activities, particularly where there is likely to be public interest in any regulatory decisions we make. We actively promote a culture of transparency and openness and we will relentlessly pursue the highest possible standards for our customers. We follow a range of best practice guidance such as, the Welsh Government’s citizen centred governance principles and the Institute for Government’s best practice transparency guide,

Requirement for a Permitting Publication Scheme

Natural Resources Wales has various duties to publish information about a range of decisions and activities. These duties arise both through general requirements on public bodies and specific requirements for particular regulatory regimes.

The Natural Resources Body for Wales (Functions) Order 2013 (the Functions Order) places a further new duty on Natural Resources Wales: to have a separate scheme relating specifically to information about permit applications and our permitting decisions. We refer to this as the “Permitting Publication Scheme” to distinguish it from the publication scheme required of all public bodies under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI 2000).

The Functions Order specifies the requirements for the Permitting Publication Scheme, and under Regulation 18 inserts relevant articles 16, 17, and 18 into the Establishment Order. These requirements are summarised below.

Natural Resources Wales is required to:

  • Develop, adopt and maintain a scheme in relation to publication of information about applications for permits and permitting decisions.
  • Publish information in accordance with the scheme
  • Review the scheme from time to time

The scheme must specify:

  • Classes of information which Natural Resources Wales publishes or intends to publish, which must include information about all applications made by Natural Resources Wales where Natural Resources Wales determines the application.
  • The manner and time within which information of each class will be published.
  • Whether the material will be available free of charge to the public.

In developing the scheme we must:

  • Consult such persons as we consider appropriate
  • Have regard to public interest in:
    • allowing access to information it holds
    • publication of information about permit applications and permitting decisions
  • Publish the scheme on our website and make copies available on request.

Following a consultation in September/October 2014, the scheme has been approved by Welsh Ministers.

Other requirements to make available information

In addition to the Permitting Publication Scheme, our duties to make information available arise from the FOI 2000, the EU Directive on public access to environmental information (Directive 2003/4/EC), and the requirements laid down in specific regulatory regimes such as the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010.

The Permitting Publication Scheme required under the Functions Order is separate to the publication scheme required under the FOI 2000. The FOI 2000 requires public bodies to maintain and publish a publication scheme that outlines the classes of information that they routinely make available, explains how they can be accessed and lists any associated costs. For all our schemes and information, we have adopted the Information Commissioner’s model publication scheme that follows relevant sections of the definition document for Welsh Government Sponsored Bodies which outlines 7 classes of information that are required:

i. Who we are and what we do
ii. What we spend and how we spend it
iii. What our priorities are and how we are doing
iv. How we make decisions
v. Our policies and procedures
vi. Lists and registers
vii. The services we offer

The FOI 2000 also allows requests for recorded information to be made of any public organisation on any subject. In addition, the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (made under the FOI 2000, to implement the EU Directive on public access to environmental information 2003/4/EC) require public bodies to make environmental information available on request. Limited exclusions apply to requests under both of these provisions for certain types of information, e.g. personal data.

Many of the regulatory regimes we are responsible for implementing in Wales have their own requirements for making information available and allowing representations to be made. Commonly these include the requirements to keep public registers and to publicise that applications have been made to allow representations to be submitted. There are provisions to allow certain information to be excluded from the public registers, e.g. on grounds of commercial confidentiality and national security. The individual requirements for each regime are summarised in Part 2 of this document.

There is a degree of duplication between the requirements of the Permitting Publication Scheme in the Functions Order, the FOI 2000 requirements and the requirements of the separate regulatory regimes. However, there are substantial differences between the requirements of each regulatory regime. The Permitting Publication Scheme seeks to specify clearly what information we will publish or make available for each regulatory regime and where you can find it, by bringing this information into one place.

In addition to publication of information, Natural Resources Wales also has a Public Participation Statement for applications made under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010 (EPR), which explains why and how we will consult on these applications. We also have a policy of increased consultation on applications at sites where we consider there is, or is likely to be a high degree of public interest.

A significant number of requests we receive under FOI 2000 are for information that we already place in the public domain. We hope that this Permitting Publication Scheme will reduce future requests by highlighting the information that is available and signposting where it may be found as clearly as possible.

Overview of Natural Resources Wales Permitting Publication Scheme

Natural Resources Wales is fully committed to openness and transparency in all our dealings, and our Permitting Publication Scheme reflects this and is part of that commitment. Our remit is very wide and we operate predominately under primary legislation that was created before we were formed. Therefore, there is a wide variation in the requirements of the regulatory regimes we operate.

The Functions Order places a duty on us to publish information about permit applications and our decisions, but it does not grant us additional powers to release information beyond that which is allowed under the existing legislation. We are also bound by the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998.

This scheme highlights the permitting regimes Natural Resources Wales is responsible for, and makes as wide a range of information available as possible at the current time by effective signposting and by improvements to our website. We also seek to strike the balance between proactively providing information that people will be interested in, making it easy to do business with us, and ensuring the best use of public money by not incurring unnecessary cost where there is little public interest.

The internet provides an excellent resource for sharing information and we will make as much information available as possible via our website. This will improve over time, and we will make increasingly more information available electronically. At the moment, our public registers are a mixture of web based information, hard copy registers held in local offices and electronic registers.

It follows that information available on our permitting functions is available through a variety of electronic and paper formats also. Where we have a legal power to publish such information on permit applications, we will provide details such as:

  • The company or individual making the permit application
  • The proposed location of the activity to be permitted, e.g. address, grid reference
  • The type of application, including the legislation it is made under, and a brief explanation of the activity (e.g. waste transfer station, or non-consumptive abstraction of water for the production of electricity)
  • An indication of the expected decision date
  • Clear guidance and signposting on where to go for further information. This will include copies of the application, and any limitations on access to information
  • How to make comments, and any deadlines that apply
  • The final decision once it has been made

For some of our regimes we produce decision rationales which are available via the registers. We will signpost these, and where they are not available we will explain how to get further information.

What information is available and how to access it

This document provides a detailed summary of what information is available for each permitting regime and where you can find it. In accordance with the Functions Order, it also specifies the manner and time within which information of each class will be published.

For certain applications which are contentious, or where there is a high level of public interest for other reasons, we will often undertake an enhanced level of consultation. Further information on how we deal with sites of high public interest that fall under the Environmental Permitting Regulations is available on our website through our Public Participation Statement. Our approach is tailored to specific local circumstances and may include one or more of the following:

  • extending consultation beyond the normal 20 working days
  • wider advertising, e.g. in local newspapers
  • consulting on the draft permit and decision document
  • providing more information via the web or free in information packages
    organising meetings with Natural Resources Wales staff

There will be some restrictions on the information available, but these will be minimised as far as possible. Restrictions will generally be due to provisions of the specific legislation, the Data Protection Act 1998, and exclusions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000. For example, under the Data Protection Act 1998, an individual’s permission may be needed before personal data can be disclosed. Information could also be withheld where it is deemed to be in the interests of national security, is commercially confidential, or where there is a risk to personal safety or property.

Self-permitting

Natural Resources Wales has a wide range of roles in relation to its functions. For certain activities, we may be the regulator, a statutory consultee, a technical advisor, a partner, contract manager, an applicant or an operator. For a range of our own operational activities and those undertaken by our contractors, we are also the regulator – the body responsible for granting permits, assessing compliance, investigating potential offences and taking enforcement action.

We will follow the requirements of this Permitting Publication Scheme by publishing summary information for all permits we issue for our own activities, including those for which there is no legal requirement to publish such information for external applicants’ permits. In addition, the Functions Order requires that where we are the applicant, are responsible for determining the application, and where the application can be called in by Welsh Ministers; we must notify Ministers at the time we make the application and make all information regarding the application available. This requirement was a key part of the interim scheme, and currently notification is made to Welsh Government of all internal applications. It is intended that this will continue under any future adopted Scheme.

Charging

It will be necessary to charge for the provision of some information. All web based information and public registers can be accessed free of charge. Other information will generally be charged for in accordance with our charging scheme for requests made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 or Environmental Information Regulations 2010.

Maintenance, review and future development of the Permitting Publication Scheme

We propose to carry out full reviews of the Permitting Publication Scheme at intervals of not less than every five years. These reviews will include public consultation on any proposed changes.

However, as Natural Resources Wales matures as an organisation, and as our public registers and information systems capability develops, we will update the scheme regularly and amend it to reflect relevant changes in legislation and our commitment to increasing transparency on our permitting regimes.

Therefore, we will not be tied to these review intervals. In the event that there is feedback that presents an opportunity to improve our services, we will seek to implement these as soon as is practically possible. An annual internal review will ensure that these opportunities are being optimised.

Marine licensing

Background

The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 requires a licence to be obtained for a number of activities taking from seaward of mean high water springs out to 12 nautical miles including, but not limited to any constructions, alteration or improvements in, on, under or over the seabed, dredging and the deposit or removal of any material from the seabed using a vehicle or vessel. Examples include dredging, bridge construction offshore renewable developments and coastal flood defences.

Public register requirements are set out within The Marine Licensing (Register of Licensing Information) (Wales) Regulations 2011. These regulations state that the register can be kept in any form.

For projects that require Environmental Impact Assessment additional Public Register requirements are outlined in the Marine Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations 2007, as amended.

Public Consultation requirements are set out by Section 68 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, and for EIA projects additional requirements are set out by The Marine Works (Environmental Impact Assessment)( England and Wales) Regulations 2007, as amended.

What we publish and where to find it

Each month a list of all Marine Licence applications which are being considered, and those determined are published on our website.

All public register documents and correspondence relating to a Marine Licence application are available through our public register.

If you have any queries or would like more information on any Marine Licence application or determination please contact our Customer Hub.

Water resources permitting - abstraction and impoundment

Background

Under the Water Resources Act 1991 and the Water Resources (Abstractions and Impounding) Regulations, you are likely to need to apply for a Water Resource licence if you want to impound (store) water in any watercourse; or abstract (take) more than 20 cubic metres (4,000 gallons) of water per day from a river or stream, reservoir, lake or pond, canal, spring, underground source, dock, channel, creek, bay, estuary or arm of the sea.

What we publish and where to find it

The Water Resources (Abstraction and Impounding) Regulations 2006 SI2006/641 as amended by The Water Resources (Abstraction and Impounding)(Amendment) Regulations 2008 SI2008/165 require us to keep a register of all applications for abstraction and impounding licences and our decisions on those applications.

The public register must be updated within 14 days of:

  • the relevant date being set for a formal application
  • a decision being made on a formal application
  • receipt of an application to make an administrative change to a licence
  • an administrative change being made to a licence

All public register documents and correspondence relating to a water resources application are available through the public register.

There is also a legal requirement to advertise Water Resource applications. This requirement for advertising was originally set out in section 37 of the Water Resources Act 1991 and subsequently amended in section 14 of the Water Act 2003.

The Water Act 2003 also included section 37A for times where dispensation with publication requirements can be applied i.e. advertising is not required.

  • Advertising applications gives any interested party the opportunity to comment. Details of applications are advertised in the following locations:
    notices are published on our own website for 28 days, once in a local newspaper and are available to view for 28 days at the local Natural Resources Wales Office;
    notice is served (by means of letter or email) on the following external bodies, where relevant:
    • navigation authority
    • harbour authority
    • conservancy authority
    • drainage board
    • statutory water undertaker

If you have any queries or would like more information on any Water Resources licence applications or determination, please contact our Customer Hub for details.

Environmental permitting

Background

The Environmental Permitting Regulations (EPR) came into force on 6 April 2008. These combined Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) and Waste Management Licensing (WML) Regulations. All existing PPC permits or waste management licences automatically became Environmental Permits from 6 April 2008. The regulations were amended in April 2010 such that all water discharge consents, groundwater authorisations and radioactive substances registrations and authorisations automatically became environmental permits.

The duty to keep a public register is found at Regulation 46 and Schedule 24 of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 SI 2010 no 675. Essentially, the regulations require that all information related to a permit application and the regulation of a site need to be made available on a public register.

Regulation 47 allows the exclusion from public registers of information affecting national security and Regulation 48 allows exclusion from public registers of confidential information.

The Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) has replaced seven existing Directives: Integrated Pollution Prevention & Control, Large Combustion Plant, Waste Incineration, Titanium Dioxide (three directives) and Solvent Emissions. We currently implement any relevant requirements of Article 24 of the IED in relation to public participation and Article 24(2) about “including via the Internet” through the Environmental Permitting Regulations (EPR).

What we publish and where to find it

All pubic register documents and correspondence relating to a EPR application (waste, installations and water quality) are available through our public register.

It is a requirement of EPR 2010 that a ‘public participation statement’ is produced. This scheme details how and what we will consult on and what will be publicised on our website. It explains our approach to applications that generate a high level of public interest.

Currently, we consult the public on all applications for bespoke permits and those variations that involve substantial change on our website. Consultations for draft decisions on certain environmental permits applications can be found on our website and a list of final decisions on Environmental permits is published each month on our website.

If you have any queries or would like more information on any EUETS application or determination please contact our Customer Hub.

Flood risk activity permits

Background

On 6th April 2016, flood defence consents became flood risk activity permits under the Environmental Permitting Regulations (2016). Flood risk activity permits are needed for activities in, over, under or near a main river or flood defence (including a sea defence), or within a flood plain to ensure the activity does not cause a risk of flooding or make existing flood risk worse. A permit is also necessary to ensure activities will not interfere with our flood risk management assets or adversely affect the local environment, fisheries or wildlife.

Find out when you will need to apply for a flood risk activity permit.

What we publish and where to find it

Currently flood risk activity permits are not published on our online public register. If you have any queries or would like more information on any flood risk activity application or determination contact our Customer Hub.

Fisheries

Background

Under the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975 you need a licence for fishing with a rod and line, moving and stocking fish and fishing with nets and traps in Wales.

It should also be noted that we consult formally on Net Limitation Orders (these limit the number of licences available) and fisheries byelaws, and we do formally consult on fish movements (stocking/removal) and consult on new licence duties.

The Dee and Burry Inlet Cockle Regulating Orders allow a certain number of cockle licences to be granted each year.

What we publish and where to find it

Currently we are not legally obliged to hold a full public register. However, if you have any queries or would like more information on any Fisheries Licence application or determination please contact our Customer Hub.

Trees, woodland and forestry

Background

It is a requirement of Forestry Act 1967(as amended) to obtain a licence before felling growing trees.

What we publish and where to find it

For felling licence applications there is no requirement in the relevant legislation to maintain a public register. However, following a specific request from a previous Forestry Minister, we do publish proposed felling licence details for 28 days on our website. This contains information of proposed felling and allows comments to be submitted.

Under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) (Forestry) Regulations 1999 we must show the decisions we make about whether proposals will have a significant effect on the environment.

If you have any queries or would like more information on any Felling Licence or EIA application or determination please contact our Customer Hub.

Protected sites

Background

Under Section 28 E of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, owners and occupiers of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) are required to give notice to us if they propose to carry out or permit an operation which has been specified in the SSSI notification as likely to damage the special interest.

Section 28(h) of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 requires statutory bodies (S28(g) authorities) to obtain our assent to carry out an operation which may damage a SSSI (whether or not within the SSSI).

What we publish and where to find it

Currently we are not legally obliged to hold a full public register. However, if you have any queries or would like more information on any Protected Sites application or determination please contact our Customer Hub.

Open Access to Land

Background

Under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (2000) (CROW) Land owners/tenants can apply to restrict access to land for a variety of reasons.

What we publish and where to find it

Currently we are not legally obliged to hold a full public register. However, if you have any queries or would like more information on any Exclusions and Restrictions application or determination please contact our Customer Hub.

European and UK Protected Species licensing

Background

European protected species (EPS) and UK protected species are covered by several pieces of legislation to protect them from harm. Main Acts are S16 Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Regulation 53 Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010, Section 10 Badgers Act 1992. We grant licences, such as Bat or Great Crested Newt, handling licences for conservation or survey work. We also deal with licences related to developments where EPS are present.

What we publish and where to find it

Currently we are not legally obliged to hold a full public register. However, if you have any queries or would like more information on any European or UK Protected species application or determination please contact our Customer Hub.

Publication of other regulatory information

We also publish information on a range of statutory registrations that are not formally permitting decisions. This is because the registrations are generally automatic and do not require a decision from Natural Resources Wales. There are some exceptions to this where we consider if parties should be prevented from registering for an activity, for example due to relevant previous convictions.

Registration of waste carriers, brokers and dealers

  • If you transport waste as part of your business, you will need to be registered as a waste carrier.
  • If you arrange for waste from other businesses or organisations to be transported, disposed of, or recovered, you need to register as a waste broker.
  • If you buy and sell waste, or use an agent to do so, you need to register as a waste dealer.
  • For waste carriers a public register maintained under section 2(2)(b) of the Control of Pollution (Amendment) Act 1989 and Regulation 3 of SI No. 1624 The Controlled Waste (Registration of Carriers and Seizure of Vehicles) Regulations 1991 and prescribed by Regulation 6 of SI No. 1991/1624 (since 14 October 1991
  • For brokers a public register held under Regulation 28 of the Waste (England & Wales) Regulations 2011 and for dealers Regulation 28 of the Waste (England & Wales) Regulations 2011 states that a register of professional dealers must be maintained.
  • The public register for upper and lower tier waste carriers, brokers and dealers is available on our website.
  • The public registers contain basic information such as business name, address and registration date. Further information can be supplied upon request via our Customer Hub.

Hazardous Waste Registrations

The Hazardous Waste (Wales) Regulations 2005 do not require us to keep a public register. However we proactively publish certain details as there is an obligation to inform a person who holds, carries or collects hazardous waste that a premises is registered. This information is available via the hazardous waste public register.

Waste and water exemptions

A public register held under and prescribed by Schedule 2, paragraph 7 of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010, the particulars as set out in paragraph 6. This information is available through our public register.

Flood risk activity permit exemptions

A public register is held for activities registered as an “exempt flood risk activity” as detailed under Schedule 2, paragraph 9 of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016. This information is available on request. Please contact our Customer Hub for details.

Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013

The Scrap Metal Dealers’ Act 2013 came into effect on 1 October 2013. Local authorities issue and enforce scrap metal dealer licenses.

The regulations require both the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales to provide a public register.

Public register details can be found on our website.

Registers outside of Permitting Publication Scheme

We are obliged by various pieces of legislation to maintain and make available public registers of information. There are some public registers we are required to maintain which fall outside this Permitting Publication Scheme, and some examples are listed below. More information is available via our website.

  • Contaminated land
  • Large raised reservoirs
  • Pollution control registers
  • Maps of rivers
  • The producer responsibility register
  • Waste batteries and accumulators
  • Landfill allowance scheme
  • Enforcement Actions
  • Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment authorised treatment facilities (WEEE AATF)
  • Authorised Treatment Facilities (ATF) for End of Life Vehicles (ELV)

How to contact us

Our Customer Hub offers a fully bilingual service and will be happy to help you with any permit related queries you have.

Email: enquiries@naturalresourceswales.gov.uk
Phone: 0300 065 3000, 9-5 Monday to Friday
Post: Natural Resources Wales c/o Customer Care Centre Ty Cambria 29 Newport Rd Cardiff CF24 0TP

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