Businesses have already been taken aback by the unexpectedly sharp increases in fees and charges proposed for 1998/99 under the regulatory systems operated by SEPA and the Environment Agency. The increases are generally between 10-20% for the waste, water and integrated pollution control regimes (ENDS Report 276, pp 38-39 ).
The steepest increases yet were proposed by SEPA on 4 February in a consultation paper on Part B processes. Emissions to air from these sites are regulated by SEPA in Scotland but by local authorities in England and Wales.
SEPA's proposals would see application fees rise by 75% from April, while subsistence charges would increase by 28%. The paper attributes the increases to significant under-recovery of costs under the present charging rates, and SEPA - still in a financial crisis despite receiving more grant-in-aid for next year than intended by the previous Government (ENDS Report 275, pp 3-4 ) - wants to move to full cost recovery from April.
In contrast, Part B operators in England and Wales face increases of just 2.4% in application fees and 3.1% in subsistence charges. The new rates were confirmed on 26 February. Operators of petrol stations and waste oil burners of less than 0.4MWth have paid £100 in both application fees and subsistence charges this year throughout Britain. The charges are to be frozen in England and Wales for 1998/99. But in Scotland, SEPA wants to see application fees raised to £300 for petrol stations and £175 for waste oil burners, while their subsistence charges would rise to £250 and £175, respectively.
It remains to be seen whether SEPA's proposals are approved by Ministers. In England and Wales, the structure of the present charging scheme is to be reviewed in the spring.