What Actions can breach Environmental Legislation?

Put simply, the law in this area is designed to tackle activities which have the potential to harm the environment.

  • Fly-tipping
  • Water pollution
  • Improper disposal of waste, harmful chemicals or radioactive substances
  • Breach of license or permit
  • Pollution of land

This list is not exhaustive so if you have any questions or would like to speak to a member of our team you can contact them directly on 0113 284 5062.

What Powers does the Environment Agency have?

The Environment Agency can enforce environment legislation compliance through:

  • Fines
  • Service of a Notice (Enforcement Notice, Stop Notice, Prohibition Notice)
  • Suspension or revocation of an environmental licence
  • Variation of licence conditions
  • Injunctions
  • Commencement of remedial works
  • Enforced business closure
  • Prosecution

If you have any concerns regarding the enforcement action by the EA you can e-mail our specialist solicitors by clicking here.

What should I do if I am being Investigated?

You should contact a specialist solicitor as soon as possible in order to ensure that you are properly advised and represented from the outset. You can contact our team directly on 0113 284 5062.

Can I be fined if I fail an Investigation, if so, how much?

The Environment Agency has the power to issue unlimited fines in Crown Court cases. Fines are calculated based on the size of the business, the level of culpability and the harm caused. In cases involving a deliberate breach of the law by a medium sized company, the starting point for a fine could be £400,000. In cases involving such significant potential for financial punishments is vital to ensure you are properly represented.

When will fixed-penalty notices be issued?

This varies depending on the issuing council, and the alleged offence. As a rule, they are issued for low-level offences such as fly posting and dog fouling. Amounts vary but they range from £50.00 to £500.00. It can be possible to appeal fixed penalty notices, so it is important to obtain legal advice the moment such a notice has been received should you wish to do so.

What are environmental obligations?

These are legal requirements that vary depending on the nature of the business. Each activity has its own specific rules so if you are unsure, it is important to obtain expert advice without delay.

Permits: These are usually required if the nature of the work carried out by a business means it has the potential to cause environmental harm. They are a must if the activity in question has the potential to cause pollution, increase flood risk or negatively impact upon land drainage;

Waste: Put simply, ‘business waste’ is any waste which results from a commercial operation.

There are several obligations to abide by when dealing with waste. These include a requirement to sort and store it safely and securely, as well as abiding by set rules for its disposal.

You must keep proper records of waste transfer notes, which must be completed each time waste leaves the organisation.

To dispose of your own waste you must register as a ‘carrier.’ This is compulsory for those businesses which transport waste, sell it, dispose of it or even arrange for someone else to do so;

Air pollution: Permits are again necessary if you operate a furnace, boiler or generator. These are issued by your local authority or in some cases, the Environment Agency.

Local councils must also provide consent for the installation of furnaces as well as changes made to existing installations.

In some parts of the country, there are designated Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs). These are declared by a local authority, whom can also declare Smoke Control Areas. Both of these mean extra regulations and the potential for fines of up to £1,000 if  breached.

Land contamination: The Environmental Protection Act 1990 states that if a local authority feels ‘significant harm’ is being caused by substances in, on or under land, it can designate the area as contaminated.

Action to remedy the problem can be undertaken on a voluntary basis but should this not happen, the Local Authority can serve a Remediation Notice which requires that ‘reasonable’ steps be taken to put things right.

The Environmental Damage (Prevention and Remediation) Regulations are another key provision in this area. The Regulations impose a basic requirement upon operators to prevent damage or further damage, and to notify the local authority when it occurs. They must also take preventative and remedial measures as so required.

The legal provisions should only be applied in ‘serious’ cases, so if you have been notified that action is being taken under them, obtain expert legal advice as soon as you can.

What is environmental management?

Taking steps to ensure regulatory compliance does not just demonstrate responsibility and ownership on a company’s part. It can also prevent costly enforcement action and legal penalties.

As a starting point, carrying out risk assessments is a fundamental step. These should be reviewed regularly and updated as required.