Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

More construction topics

More construction guidance in alphabetical order

Additional resources

       

What you must do

Storing and reusing planings

If you dispose of asphalt planings or other materials from your works, you must comply with your duty of care responsibilities.

Duty of care - your waste responsibilities

To store and use road planings and excavated sub-base, you will need a waste management licence or exemption.

If what you need is an exemption, it will be a paragraph 19 exemption.

If you have an exemption, you must comply with the exemption conditions.

You must register this exemption with your environmental regulator.

You must still ensure that your activity does not:

  • endanger human health or cause pollution to water, air or soil
  • constitute a risk to plants or animals
  • cause a nuisance in terms of noise and odour
  • adversely affect the countryside or places of special interest.

Waste management licensing

NIEA: Paragraph 19 exemption – Use of waste for construction

SEPA: Waste management licensing exemptions

Asphalt planings can contain a high level of contaminants. These contaminants can be picked up by rainwater passing through a stockpile or can seep out into the ground.

You must prevent contaminants from planings leaching into the ground or into watercourses. Planings should be covered and stored on an impermeable surface. Rainwater that runs through the planings can pick up contaminants and transport them into the groundwater or nearby watercourses. Water run-off should be collected and tested for contamination before you decide how it should be disposed of.

Plan your site so that you can safely store planings for use as part of your works.

Roadstone coating plants

The implementation of the Waste Incineration Directive has placed tighter controls on roadstone coating plants that use waste oil in the process. All roadstone coating plants that use waste oil must have a pollution prevention and control permit to operate.

NIEA: Statutory Guidance for Roadstone Coating

Pollution prevention and control permits

Good practice

Scotland

SEPA has produced guidance on the production of fully recovered asphalt road planings.

SEPA: Guidance on the production of fully recovered asphalt road planings (Adobe PDF - 262KB)

Northern Ireland

NIEA: Regulatory Position Statement – Production of Asphalt Road Planings

Quality Protocol: Aggregates from Inert Waste

 

Bentonite can be highly polluting to water if it is released into the environment.

What you must do

Storing bentonite, mixing areas and supply lines

If you are using bentonite, ensure that it is contained within your working area and does not enter any watercourses or surface water drains.

Ensure that storage silos are bunded.

Surround areas where bentonite is mixed with a small wall or contain them within a bund. This will help to control the slurry produced and prevent it from entering surface water drains or watercourses.

Position bentonite storage silos and supply lines as far as possible from surface water drains or watercourses.

Using bentonite

Keep a record of the amount of bentonite that you use. If you are tunnelling and you find that you are using larger quantities of bentonite than you anticipated it is possible that these materials are escaping into the ground and potentially polluting groundwater.

Screening plants and centrifuge systems

Screening plants used to remove sands or gravels from bentonite, or centrifuge systems used to remove water from slurry, can be extremely noisy. Position these systems as far away as possible from the nearest housing.

Disposing of bentonite

You must not dispose of liquid wastes to landfill. It can be difficult to determine whether slurry is a liquid or not.

Liquid waste can be defined as:

  • any waste that near instantaneously flows into an indentation void made in the surface of the waste
  • any waste (load) containing free draining liquid substance in excess of 250 litres or 10%, whichever represents the lesser amount.

Before you dispose of bentonite, you must check with your waste contractor where the material will be taken and how it will be treated. There are a limited number of licensed waste disposal sites that can accept slurries for treatment prior to disposal.

Duty of care - your waste responsibilities

Hazardous / special waste

Clean, unused bentonite is classed as non hazardous waste.

You must dispose of any waste that contains hydrocarbon, for example hydraulic oils or diesel, as hazardous/special waste.

This can include tunnel spoil and bentonite that have been in close contact with leaking equipment. You will need to test this material in a laboratory to find out whether it is suitable for landfill and whether the site that you intend to take the waste to is allowed to accept it.

Cement powder, workable concrete and grout are extremely alkaline. You may also hear this referred to as a high pH.

There are several construction processes that risk contaminating water in this way.

Where shafts are to be sunk wet (ie material is removed from below the water level in the shaft), there is a risk of the water in the shaft becoming highly alkaline when the concrete base is poured.

When using dry-mix concrete to set kerbs or paving, water that runs off may be alkaline and, if so, may need to be contained.

Civil engineering works that use workable concrete close to watercourses or groundwater, such as cast in situ piling or bridge works.

Cement powder, workable concrete and grout can be highly polluting to water if released into the environment.

What you must do

If you are using concrete or grout, ensure that they are contained within your working area and do not enter any watercourses or surface water drains.

If you are mixing grout on site, construct a suitable barrier around mixing areas, supply lines and around working areas to prevent its escape.

Run-off from concrete operations and concrete wash out water are highly alkaline, which can cause water pollution.

Concrete also contains chromium, which is potentially polluting not only to watercourses but also to groundwater.

Trucks, hoppers, mixers and concrete pumps that have contained concrete must be washed out in a contained area away from watercourses, surface water drains, storm water drains, grids and channels to prevent pollution.

Where possible, store and reuse washout water.

You can contact the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) or SEPA to find out if you are in an area where groundwater is vulnerable to pollution.

Contact your environmental regulator

If you are working in an area where groundwater is vulnerable to pollution, ensure that concrete washout water is contained and removed from site for treatment as liquid waste.

If you are pumping concrete or grout into the ground, keep records of the quantity that you are using. If you find that you are using larger quantities than you expected it is possible that these materials are escaping into the ground and potentially polluting groundwater.

Good practice

Only order the amount of concrete or grout that you need. Where you have several smaller areas that require concrete, plan your works so that you can pour more than one of these areas at once.

When preparing method statements and risk assessments, include information on:

  • testing the water prior to disposal
  • treating the water if necessary to reduce its alkalinity
  • how the water will be disposed of.

Supply good quality gloves for people working with concrete to reduce the quantity of gloves that you have to order and later dispose of.

Follow the pulverised fuel ash quality protocol in Northern Ireland

The pulverised fuel ash (PFA) and furnace bottom ash (FBA) quality protocol means that PFA and FBA will no longer be classified as waste when used in bound and grout applications, providing you meet the criteria set out in the quality protocol. This means PFA and FBA can be used without waste management controls.

For example, if it is not classed as a waste, you do not need to transport it using a waste carrier or with a waste transfer note.

The quality protocol for PFA applies in Northern Ireland.

GOV.UK: Pulverised fuel ash quality protocol

The Considerate Constructors Scheme is a non-profit-making, independent organisation founded in 1997 by the construction industry to improve its image.

Construction sites, companies and suppliers voluntarily register with the Scheme and agree to abide by the Code of Considerate Practice, designed to encourage best practice beyond statutory requirements. 

Considerate Constructors Scheme: Code of Practice

The Scheme is concerned about any area of construction activity that may have a direct or indirect impact on the image of the industry as a whole. The main areas of concern fall into three categories: the general public, the workforce and the environment.

The Code of Practice includes the following

 

Protect the Environment Constructors should protect and enhance the environment

  • Identifying, managing and promoting environmental issues.
  • Seeking sustainable solutions, and minimising waste, the carbon footprint and resources.
  • Minimising the impact of vibration, and air, light and noise pollution.
  • Protecting the ecology, the landscape, wildlife, vegetation and water courses.

What you must do

Storage of explosives

For safety and security reasons, there are specific legal requirements and approved codes of practice relating to the storage of explosives. For further information contact your local council, or in Northern Ireland the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) and the police.

Health and Safety Executive: Enforcement of regulations on the storage of explosives - advisory guidance for local authority, fire service and police staff (Adobe PDF - 115KB)

HSENI: Manufacture and storage of explosives in Northern Ireland, page 55 (Adobe PDF - 1.69MB)

Ammonium nitrate fuel oil

Ammonium nitrate will dissolve on contact with water. Store it in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions and keep it dry and away from surface water drains and watercourses.

Ammonium nitrate fuel oil (ANFO) mixed on site should be used as soon as possible after mixing. If ANFO is left to stand the fuel oil and ammonium nitrate can separate, causing both safety and environmental problems. The fuel oil can pollute groundwater as it leaches from the mixture. It is therefore important to consider the risk of groundwater pollution before using ANFO within waterlogged drill holes.

If you pollute groundwater, your environmental regulator can serve you with an 'anti pollution works notice'. This will require you to undertake works or operations to clean up the pollution that you have caused.

Noise from explosions

Notify your local council Environmental Health Officer of your works and give them contact details for your site, so that they can deal with any complaints from the public quickly.

Advertise the times at which blasting will take place. You can do this at your site entrance, other access points and well used public areas, for example, the local post office or pub.

Use flags or portable notices to warn the public of an imminent blast.

Produce and maintain a list of names and addresses of local residents that are to be warned before blasting takes place. Document how they are to be contacted and by whom.

Place sentries at specified locations to warn the public that blasting is taking place. Ensure that all necessary safety precautions are in place to prevent access to your site or provide a diversion route, for example, if a footpath runs along the site boundary or through the site.

Noise, odour and other nuisances

Disposal of explosive waste

You must not dispose of explosive wastes at hazardous waste landfill sites.

Landfill

Further information

Health and Safety Executive

Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland

Whether small and portable or large and static, generators use fuel such as petrol or diesel to produce electricity.

The Health and Safety Executive provides information on electricity and the safe use and handling of flammable substances such as petrol.

Health and Safety Executive

Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland

What you must do

Location and set up

Where possible, set up your generator on an impermeable surface such as hard standing or a drip tray, well away from any drains or watercourses.

Where an external fuel storage tank feeds a generator, you should ensure that the hoses and couplings are protected from damage. Make sure that no one walks between the storage tank and the generator and that vehicles do not operate within the immediate area.

If you are moving a generator with a built-in bund, first make sure that the bund is empty, otherwise the liquid from the bund will spill.

Ensure that your generator pulls fuel in from any external fuel tank rather than fuel being pumped into the generator. This will stop the flow of fuel if the generator breaks down.

If you use or hire a generator that has an integral (built-in) bund, check that the bund does not have holes drilled in it.

Maintenance

Service your generator regularly. As well as making the generator operate more efficiently, this can reduce the level of noise and emissions (fumes) that it produces.

When your generator is serviced, have the hoses and connections checked for wear and tear or damage. As well as time lost through breakdowns, leaks and pipe bursts can cause land contamination and water pollution that can be expensive to clean up.

Fuel and oil spills

The risk of spilling fuel is at its greatest during refuelling of plant.

Refuelling at construction sites

Keep a spill kit available and use a bunded bowser for refuelling.

Other simple steps that you can take to prevent oil spills include training staff, supplying funnels for use when refuelling and providing absorbent materials to soak up spills.

Make sure that any container that you use for transporting diesel or petrol to your generator is fit for purpose, has a sealed lid, does not leak and is properly labelled.

Place a drip tray beneath hoses or couplings. You need to empty drip trays regularly. If oil, diesel or petrol is present, you will need to dispose of the contents of the drip trays as hazardous/special waste.

Hazardous / special waste

Oil storage

Noise

The doors that allow you access to the internal workings of the generator are usually designed to be closed while it is operating. Ensure that these doors are closed to reduce the noise produced by the generator while it is operating and reduce the potential for complaints from the public.

What you must do

Storing paint

Put the lids securely back on containers holding materials that may evaporate, such as thinners or solvent-based paints. This may help to save you money and will reduce the risk of spills.

Applying paint

If you are spraying paint, make sure that the mist cannot be blown onto neighbouring properties by the wind.

If you are using petrol or diesel powered paint spraying equipment you may need to comply with the Oil Storage Regulations.

Oil storage

Disposing of paint

Do not pour waste products such as paint or solvent-based cleaning products into drains as this can cause water pollution.

Reuse solvents and cleaning fluids after paint has settled out of them.

Dispose of paint sediment safely and properly in accordance with the duty of care. Seek advice from your environmental regulator.

Check whether any of your paint or other materials has a hazard label on the packaging. This will help you to determine whether these materials will need to be disposed of as hazardous/special waste.

You must not dispose of liquid wastes to landfill. Before you decide to dispose of surplus paint, assess whether you can use it elsewhere.

If you are disposing of tins containing water-based paint or paint residue, store them securely, remove the lids and allow the paint to harden before disposal.

If you are disposing of tins containing solvent-based paint or paint residue, contact your waste disposal contractor and discuss whether these can be recycled or disposed of in an environmentally sensitive manner.

Community Re>Paint run a paint recycling scheme.

Community RePaint

Washing your equipment

If you are working within an existing domestic property and are, for example, washing brushes in the sink, the dirty water will not require an additional consent if the property is connected to the mains sewerage.

If you want to discharge paints, solvents or other materials to a drain, watercourse or to sewer you will need authorisation.

Discharges to water or sewer

Liquids used for cleaning paintbrushes and other equipment must not be allowed to enter surface water drains, (such as those taking roof water) or road drains, or to soak into the ground.

Lead-based paints

Wastes from the removal of lead-based paints can be harmful to the environment and to human health. Make sure that you dispose of them correctly.

Hazardous / special waste

Contact the Health and Safety Executive or the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland for further information about working with lead-based materials.

Health and Safety Executive

Health and Safety Executive (Northern Ireland)

Further information

Chemical storage

Good practice

Maintenance work

Consider using a system of preventative plant maintenance. Well-maintained plant and equipment are less likely to break down, will emit fewer pollutants to the air and can help prevent spills of oil and fuel. In addition, well-maintained plant vibrates less and makes less noise.

Regularly check hoses and connections for wear or damage. These are the parts of any vehicle or equipment that are most likely to cause a spill if they fail.

Fix all leaks immediately, regardless of their size.

Make sure that plant maintenance is undertaken on an impermeable surface such as concrete hard standing, a plastic membrane or other suitable material, away from surface water drains, watercourses, source protection zones and vulnerable groundwaters.

Surface water run-off

You should channel run-off from maintenance areas to an oil separator (interceptor) before you discharge it by an authorised route.

Oil separators at construction sites

Disposal of waste

Maintaining plant and equipment can produce waste materials including waste oil, materials used to clean up spills, hydraulic oil from servicing and oily rags.

Make sure that all materials from plant maintenance are collected and disposed of as hazardous/special waste.

Bunded areas can collect rainwater contaminated with fuel, oil or chemicals.

You may need to dispose of waste materials, including contaminated rainwater, that contain hydrocarbons (fuel and oils) or other hazardous substances as hazardous/special waste.

Hazardous / special waste

Hired plant and equipment

If you are hiring plant and equipment, check whether the hiring business has a system of preventative plant maintenance in place.

If you allow people from an equipment or plant hire business to maintain or repair plant that you have on hire, make sure that they understand and follow your waste disposal procedures.

In Northern Ireland, if you send non-hazardous waste containing any amount of gypsum to landfill it must go to a separate cell for high sulphate waste or to a non-hazardous landfill where no biodegradable waste is accepted. You must dispose of gypsum-based materials that are classified as hazardous waste in a hazardous waste landfill.

What you must do

Make sure that you set aside a dry storage area for bagged plaster mix. This will reduce wastage and may save you money.

Do not wash mixed or dry plaster into drains or surface waters as this can cause water pollution.

You can recycle clean, uncontaminated plasterboard. Speak to your supplier for more information.

Allow wet, mixed plaster to go off before disposal. You must not dispose of liquid wastes to landfill.

You must separate plaster, plasterboard and other gypsum products from your general wastes, as they contain high levels of sulphate.

You must dispose of non-hazardous gypsum-based materials only in landfills for non-hazardous waste, in cells where no biodegradable waste is accepted. You must dispose of gypsum-based materials that are classified as hazardous waste in hazardous waste landfills.

NIEA: Recycled gypsum from waste plasterboard 

Scotland: The disposal in landfills of gypsum wastes (Adobe PDF - 24KB)

Good practice

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), the Environment Agency and WRAP have developed a Quality Protocol for producing and using products made from gypsum from waste plasterboard, for Northern Ireland. Uses include:

  • as a raw material in the manufacture of new gypsum-based products
  • as a soil treatment agent
  • as an additive in cement clinker.

If you follow the protocol, the gypsum will no longer be classified as waste, so it can be used without waste management controls.

For example, if it is not classed as a waste, you do not need to transport it using a waste carrier or with a waste transfer note.

NIEA: Waste quality protocols

In Scotland SEPA has produced a policy statement for manufacturing gypsum from waste plasterboard. If you produce gypsum by complying with the statement, it will no longer be classified as waste, so it can be used without waste management controls.

For example, if it is not classed as a waste, you do not need to transport it using a waste carrier or with a waste transfer note.

SEPA: Gypsum from waste plasterboard (Adobe PDF - 97KB)

Further information

Wrap: Plasterboard recycler directory

What you must do

Make sure that you know the locations of all existing foul and surface water drains and sewers, and where they lead.

When connecting a discharge to a drain or sewer, always check that you are connecting to the correct system.

Never make any discharge to a drain without prior authorisation.

Materials for recycling, such as copper piping are likely to be waste and, if so, will be subject to the requirements of the waste management and duty of care regimes.

Where fuels or oil cause an environmental incident, the responsibility for that incident rests with the person or business who has control of them, irrespective of who owns them.

What you must do

Storage areas

If you store any kind of oil on your premises you may need to comply with the Oil Storage Regulations.

Oil storage

PPG 2 Above ground oil storage tanks (Adobe PDF - 276KB)

Your environmental regulator can serve on you an 'anti pollution works notice' if your site gives rise to, or is at risk of giving rise to, pollution of surface waters or groundwater. This notice will require you to undertake remedial action.

Good practice

Storage areas

Establish the plant storage and refuelling areas in a location where they will not need to be moved during the course of the contract.

Until you set up a storage compound, minimise the quantities of oil and fuel you have on site.

Store all chemicals within a bund or drip tray.

Bunds at construction sites

Fuel, oil and chemical storage facilities should be located on impermeable surfaces with controlled drainage, away from storm water sewers, grids, channels and watercourses.

All funnels, buckets, containers, brushes and other associated equipment should also be kept in a bunded area when not in use.

Clearly label tanks with their contents and storage capacity; this will reduce the risk of overfill and spillage.

If you are storing oils such as mould release oils or hydraulic oils in barrels from which you will need to transfer small quantities to other containers before use, have a tap fitted to the barrel. Store the barrel on its side, on a stand, within a bunded area.

Place a bucket or container under taps to safeguard against drips and leaks. Any leakage can then be reused. You will also prevent fuels and oils mixing with any water in the base of the bunded area.

Consider using biodegradable hydraulic oils when working in or near water.

Where there is a risk that plant or vehicles could collide with or damage a fuel storage area, consider installing heavy-duty barriers (jersey™, Armco™ or similar) between the fuel storage tank and areas where plant and vehicles operate.

Where possible, protect hydraulic hoses from damage. Hoses and connections should be regularly checked for leaks and faults.

Out and about

Ensure that any containers you carry with you are correctly labelled, are fit for purpose and are securely stored to prevent them being damaged or spilt.

Containers should be placed on drip trays to collect small spillages.

Mobile bowsers and containers

Use only bunded mobile bowsers for refuelling plant and equipment and make sure that the bund is regularly emptied of any fuel that has collected.

Supply funnels to help prevent spills during refuelling.

Make sure that each bowser has a spill response kit on board.

Make sure that any container that you use for transporting fuel is fit for purpose, has a sealed lid, does not leak and is properly labelled.

Storing small amounts of fuel or oil

If you are storing small amounts of oil or diesel within your working area, ensure that they are:

  • stored upright
  • with their lids securely on
  • located away from watercourses or surface water drains
  • lcorrectlylabelled
  • stored in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.

By using containers with watertight lids, you can reduce the risk of accidental spillage of mould release oil onto the ground and reduce the risk of rainwater getting into the product.

Store any containers away from areas in which vehicles regularly move.

Security and vandalism

Fuel storage tanks should be locked when not in use to prevent unauthorised access and to reduce the risk of vandalism. As the owners or controllers of that fuel, you will be liable for any pollution that it causes even if vandals release the fuel.

Further information

Health and Safety Executive

Health and Safety Executive (Northern Ireland)

PPG 21 Pollution incident response planning (Adobe PDF – 318KB)

Oil Care Campaign: Useful resources to help and guide you when handling, storing and disposing of oils

Northern Ireland Environment Agency: Waste oils in Northern Ireland (Adobe PDF - 132KB)

Good practice

Rust can pollute water. Store metal reinforcement bars off the ground to reduce rusting and the risk of polluting water.

If you are storing reinforcement bars for prolonged periods of time, you should also keep them covered.

Use labelled containers to store smaller items (such as spacers) to help prevent them being lost or mislaid on site. This could not only help to reduce your level of wastage but also your costs.

Supply good quality gloves for steel fixers. This should enable you to reduce the quantity of gloves that you have to order and later dispose of.

Road sweepers are widely used for keeping public roads, site roads, runways and other accesses clean and for suppressing dust. They use water as a means of capturing dirt and dust and are intended to clean up surfaces used by vehicles.

Because road sweepers are often brought in under contract to construction projects, it can be unclear who is responsible for the environmental issues associated with them. It is better to assume that you are responsible and to check that the points below have been dealt with, than to realise only when pollution occurs that you were responsible.

For more detailed information on operating plant and equipment, read our plant maintenance guidance.

Plant maintenance at construction sites

What you must do

Waste carriers registration

You must register with your environmental regulator as a waste carrier if you operate a road sweeper that collects and carries construction or demolition waste.

Waste carriers, brokers and dealers

Contact your environmental regulator

Sweeper arisings

Sweeper arisings can be difficult to dispose of as each load can be different depending on where the sweeper has been operating.

The contents can include varying amounts of:

  • water
  • dirt (suspended solids)
  • leaves
  • stones
  • litter
  • hydrocarbons (petrol, oil and diesel)
  • road salt
  • de-icing chemicals.

Do not empty the sweeper into or near drains, surface water or groundwater as this may cause pollution.

Do not empty sweeper arisings directly onto bare ground.

Do not use road sweepers to clean up spills of oil, diesel, petrol or chemicals.

Only wash out the arisings compartment of the road sweeper in locations with controlled drainage, for example, when connected to the public sewer or a containment unit.

If you have an appropriate licence or permit, you may be able to empty sweeper arisings onto an impermeable surface that has controlled drainage.

In order to deposit waste material on land, you will require either a waste management licence or a pollution prevention and control permit.

Speak to your environmental regulator for further information.

Waste management licences

Pollution prevention and control permits

You should only dispose of waste from road sweepers at sites that are authorised to receive that type of waste. Where possible, sweepers should travel to a suitably licensed site to unload.

Where this is not possible, for example when working through the night at an airport or on overnight road works, your environmental regulator will discuss possible options with you. For example, if you are able to empty your sweeper into a skip, your local environmental regulator may agree to this.

If you empty a road sweeper in an unauthorised location such as the verge of a public highway, you are flytipping. This is an offence, and your environmental regulator could prosecute you.

Further information

Duty of care - your waste responsibilities

Trade effluent - discharges to sewers

Water use and efficiency

Good practice

Rust can pollute water. If you are storing scaffold poles in one place for prolonged periods of time, keep them off the ground to reduce rusting and the risk of polluting water.

Store scaffold clips in lidded containers. Preventing scaffold clips from rusting and being mislaid on site means that you have to replace fewer of them, which will help you to save money and reduce waste.

When removing scaffolding, sweep mud, dust and stones from the boards onto a shovel and dispose of them before removing and banging the boards.

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Permits

NIEA - Apply online

SEPA - Application forms