Firms operating without permits due to Environment Agency delays

EXCLUSIVE: Firms are waiting up to 20 months for the Environment Agency to issue bespoke permits, with consultants telling ENDS that firms are being left with “no choice” but to operate without a permit because they “can’t afford to wait”.

Source - Getty Images, Derek Berwin

According to an email sent by the Environment Agency (EA) in May 2022 and seen by ENDS, the average allocation time for a new standard rules permit is 23-27 weeks and a new bespoke permit is 18-20 weeks. 

However, multiple sources have told ENDS that the delays are in some cases actually much longer. 

Adam Wilson, director of Severn Compliance Limited, who specialises in waste permits, told ENDS that he has just received a response from an EA officer with regards to a basic bespoke permit that was submitted 14 months ago. 

Graeme Kennett, principal environmental consultant at Mabbett & Associates Limited, also told ENDS that he currently has one permit that has been with the agency for 20 months. 

Another consultant, who has asked to remain anonymous, told ENDS that the delays are leaving firms with no option but to operate outside the bounds of their permits because the application is taking so long. 

Another consultant echoed these views, telling ENDS that a lot of clients are “probably operating as if the permit variation has been issued because they can’t afford to wait”. 

READ MORE: How ‘killer delays’ are forcing firms to operate without permits

“No company can wait 18 months for something. Neither the company nor the suppliers, nor the environment, nobody can afford to wait that length of time,” they added.

According to all sources, there has been lots of back and forth between the agency and permit applicants to little avail, with one consultant even telling ENDS that they received an email saying that the number of complaints was inhibiting the agency’s ability to determine permits because it was spending more time dealing with complaints than dealing with permits.

This is having a direct impact on businesses, sources told ENDS, with one consultant telling ENDS that they have a client who is looking to buy a scrap yard but the deal probably will not go ahead because it has been told by the agency that it cannot operate with the existing permit and to transfer to a new permit is going to take around eight months.

“The client isn’t going to shell out £2 million for a business that they can’t make a pound with for eight months - it’s not viable, it’s a killer”. 

The Environment Agency told ENDS that while the demand on services means it has not always met customer expectations on waiting and processing times, the EA takes its “responsibility to protect the environment very seriously”, adding that “the regulations are clear and are enforced robustly”.