Environmental expert warns of potentially serious delays to construction projects due to change in licensing requirements

Lack of awareness of a recent regulatory change could lead to significant and costly delays in both large and small construction projects in Scotland, a leading environmental consultancy has warned.

From January 1 this year, construction projects are obliged to obtain a “Complex License” for any project larger than four hectares or a project longer than 5km.

The licence requirements, introduced in the Water Environment (Miscellaneous) (Scotland) Regulations 2017, also apply to sites with ground of more than one hectare or length greater than 500 metres with a slope in excess of 25 degrees.

But of immediate concern to the construction industry is that approval of licence applications by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) can take up to four months – excluding necessary and detailed preparation time – and no work can commence until the licence is approved.

Simon Knott, managing director of environmental consultancy Naturally Compliant, said: “As outlined in these regulations, projects are now obliged to apply for a complex licence, should they meet the criteria.

“They will have to compile information regarding surface water movement, the volumes of surface flow and discharge points, what will be used to treat the water and agree water quality standards that will be achieved. All this information is required before they can even apply for a licence.

“Then there will be months of waiting to see if the application is successful. According to the information seen, not a spade can be turned until the licence application is successful. My concern is that many firms are unaware of just how great an impact the new regime could have on their programming. We are also waiting to see how developers react to the changes and whether they will apply for the licence prior to awarding contracts.”

Mr. Knott, whose consultancy has experience of providing information required by the new licensing framework through working on major infrastructure projects in England with similar requirements, works with major utility companies as well as construction giants also highlighted other requirements in the regulations.

The licence requires a named person or company responsible for securing compliance to the licence; a Pollution Prevention Plan will have to be agreed with SEPA as part of the licence; and the cost of application will be between £1000 and £2000.

Mr. Knott said some developers may deal with the change by applying for a licence pre tender and add it in to their works information, while others might pass the liability for securing and complying with the licence to the contractor.

He said: “Construction professionals need to be aware now of the cost and time implications this could have for their companies and they should seek expert guidance to help mitigate the more damaging potential effects.”

For further information, please contact Mr. Simon Knott, Managing Director, Naturally Compliant Ltd., 20-23 Woodside Place, Glasgow G3 7QL. T: +44 (0)141 582 1285. E: info@naturallycompliant.com. W: www.naturallycompliant.com.