Charges for a Permit for River Work in England

Wednesday, 4th April 2018

WTT responded robustly to the Environment Agency’s consultation on proposed charges for permits issued under the Environmental Permitting Regulations. These are the permits we usually have to get to do habitat improvement work in the river. We felt it iniquitous that EA should be seeking to charge perhaps many hundreds of pounds for such work by NGOs, angling clubs and many others aimed at improving our environment (and supporting the EA’s statutory obligations to do so).

Now the EA has responded to that consultation and issued its charges: there’s good and bad news. The good news is that the Agency has listened to the howls from across the conservation and angling worlds and maybe made things better: there is now a reduced rate for a permit for “non-commercial activities undertaken for the purpose of environmental improvement”. Furthermore, during the 18/19 year, EA is to look again at the exemptions from permitting which might allow the likes of WTT to do our good work without a formal permit and associated cost. EA is keen to progress catchment permits, whereby an operator could apply to carry out the same work at multiple sites within a catchment, reducing the overall permit bill.

However, the charges still remain, in our opinion, steep. A permit for a single “non-commercial activity undertaken for the purpose of environmental improvement” (say a number of log deflectors in the river) will cost £170 and then every additional “activity” (say, marginal brash habitat features) will cost 25% of that £170, so another £42.50. Then there may be an additional subsistence charge of £68. So, a fairly simple project with four different habitat improvement methods (“activities” in EA language) could cost £365.50 in permit charges alone, excluding the cost of preparing the permit application and before any actual work starts.

It is reported that the Treasury steer to EA remains that its partners, like WTT, should be charged for their permits, but that doesn’t feel much like a partnership arrangement. Also, there are some genuine peculiarities in the charges. For example, if we at WTT want to improve habitat in a river and require a permit, we will pay a minimum of £170, as above. However, the equivalent permit from EA for a domestic household or a charity to discharge up to 5000 litres per day of sewage effluent to groundwater costs £125.

We’ve raised our concerns with EA and are assured that area permitting teams will be pragmatic in their handling of permit applications. We’ll continue to lobby the EA so that we can carry on our good works and we will contribute to their review to try to produce workable and meaningful exemptions.