Consultation on Integrated Authorisation Framework

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Integrated authorisation framework best practiceA consultation that proposes to radically simplify, streamline and integrate existing Scottish environmental authorisation regimes was launched in January 2017 and will run for three months.

Proposals for a new integrated authorisation framework were published on 12 January 2017 and the consultation will run until 12 April 2017. Run jointly by SEPA and the Scottish Government, the consultation explains new proposals to integrate the authorisation, procedural and enforcement arrangements for existing environmental regimes relating to water, waste, radioactive substances and pollution prevention and control.

The consultation proposes to standardise authorisation tiers across those regimes, with regulated activities authorised at the lowest appropriate level as decided by SEPA thereby creating a consistent and flexible processes for enforcement across existing regimes, as well as creating simpler and standardised processes to allow improved public participation in decision making.

SEPA and the Scottish Government hope to establish three simple universal environmental outcomes which would form overarching requirements for all people authorised under the proposals:

  • to prevent harm;
  • to use resources sustainably;
  • to prevent incidents and accidents.

These are the basic outcomes every environmental regime seeks to achieve.

The proposals set out in the integrated authorisation framework consultation mean that SEPA will be able to deliver fair, results driven regulation that significantly simplifies regulatory work, while reducing the regulatory burden on businesses and enabling innovation, without compromising the environment. The changes will allow SEPA to work in a more integrated way, knowing that lower risk areas are being managed well and focusing on environmental risks where there is little or no data, which currently have no clear solution on what is needed to improve or eradicate the risk.

The new framework aims to simplify and standardise the process for obtaining, modifying, transferring or surrendering authorisations across the existing regimes. As shown in Figure 1, SEPA and Scottish Government propose four tiers of authorisation within the framework. Operators will be regulated against the lowest tier appropriate to the environmental risk their activities create. The proposed authorisations are tiered as follows:

  • Permits: this is the top tier and will apply to operators carrying out activities where the environment is at greater risk of damage from operations or who require bespoke conditions for their operations. Operators will need to apply for a permit and undergo a rigorous assessment from SEPA before being granted a permit.
  • Registrations: this second tier will apply to activities where SEPA is content to carry out a short assessment or on-line screening before approving operations. Applications for a registration will be determined within 28 days. If an application is approved, operators will need to comply with a set of standard conditions.
  • Notifications: there are a range of lower risk activities where there will be no need for approval from SEPA and proposals are that SEPA only needs to be notified that the activity is taking place and that the rules set for the activity are being followed.
  • General Binding Rules: proposals for lower risk activities mean that operators do not need to contact SEPA at all and can carry out the activities provided the they are carried out in line with a set of rules to be known as the general binding rules.
integrated authorisation framework before and after

Figure 1 – Comparison of current regulation and proposed integrated authorisation framework

Another proposal is to introduce a wider ‘Fit and Proper Person’ test that applies to all registration and permit level authorisations. The proposed test would be proportionate to the risk of the activity with all applicants needing to demonstrate they are willing and able to comply with any conditions or standard rules. Some will need to demonstrate they are competent, do not have a history of being involved in environmental crime and have the finances needed to manage their liabilities as appropriate. The authorised person will be responsible for managing the authorisation and held to account if issues arise.

The framework is a cornerstone of delivering better environmental regulation in Scotland, one of the Scottish Governments key aims, and One Planet Prosperity, the regulatory strategy SEPA is committed to delivering.  You can view and respond to the consultation on the Scottish Government consultation hub.

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