The so-called LA-IPPC regime in England and Wales kicked off last year, and will eventually embrace around 1,000 installations. A total of 179 applications had been submitted by mid-January.
Statutory guidance on the "best available techniques" to be used by operators has so far been issued by DEFRA for six sectors: particle board and related products, glass, ferrous foundries, non-ferrous metals, galvanising and surface treatment using organic solvents.
These guidance notes have dealt with controls on emissions to air at a level of detail familiar from the predecessor LAPC regime. But they are much thinner on the new features which are to be controlled under IPPC - raw materials, waste, water and noise.
At the latest meeting of its liaison bodies with industry and local authorities, DEFRA announced plans for an interim review of the sectoral guidance notes within about two years of their publication. This means that reviews of the initial six will have to be completed between the middle and the end of next year.
DEFRA wants the Environment Agency's Local Authority Unit, which drafts the guidance, to "explore the scope for increasing the amount of detail as regards the [non-air] impacts addressed by IPPC."
In a note explaining its intentions, the Department says it expects the review to draw on a wide range of technical information - including the EU's "BREF" notes, experience from the Agency's regulation under IPPC, the environmental technology industry and other sources.
Issues "potentially" to be explored "include the possibilities (and existing/ emerging techniques) for raw material control, minimisation and substitution in each sector, in particular so as to guide local authorities as to what to expect and require when they receive inventory information and annual reviews."
DEFRA expects this to lead to more sector-specific guidance in each note - both of a descriptive kind, setting out, for example, the main sources of wastes or effluents, and more detailed BAT requirements.
The review seems certain to lead to more work for operators. However, a period before upgrading to any new requirements will be allowed, and officials also hope that the exercise will identify cost-saving waste minimisation opportunities for companies.
Meanwhile, DEFRA is carrying out an informal survey of a small number of local authorities to gauge their initial experience of the new regime.
There is concern among councils about the poor standard of some companies' applications. There is also apparent common ground between industry and local authorities that some statutory consultees are making life unnecessarily difficult for companies and regulators.
The concern is centred on Primary Care Trusts and the Food Standards Agency. DEFRA was told by members of its industry liaison committee that these organisations are sometimes making excessive requests for information, such as air pollutant dispersion modelling, which regulators are then passing on to companies.
DEFRA is keeping an eye on the situation and has asked for examples of such cases. The Health Protection Agency is preparing guidance for consultation on PCTs' role in IPPC which may produce a more consistent response in due course.
The target date for finishing the study is April. It will provide a benchmark for how a good authority should be carrying out its regulatory work, and will also make recommendations as to the adequacy of the current levels of fees and charges paid by industry. Officials have already been dropping hints that the fees paid under LA-IPPC are too low to enable regulators to recover their full costs.