EA publishes Fees Consultation

06 DECEMBER 2017

The Environment Agency has published a consultation on the most radical review of fees for years. Almost all fees are affected, but from a waste management point of view, those seeking permits, variations or additional management systems like Fire Prevention Plans will be most affected. Operators should also take account of the Exemptions review which is likely to be published shortly and which is understood to include a requirement for Permitted sites that have Exemptions to remove those Exemptions (within 6 months of April?) and apply for a variation.  

360 considered two examples of recent permits to compare old costs to new.

A SR2015 No 11 transfer station permit (with no building) for <5k tonnes per annum. Under the current system, the charge was £1630 for the application and then £3420 annual subsistence. Under the new system, the application charge would be £3926 but with a £550 reduction in the subsistence fee. But added to that application charge are new charges. A Fire Plan, for instance is £1200. Same for odour, dust, noise and pest if required. There is also a 'habitats screening' charge of £779 and a 'first year of operation' charge of £672. And then there is also pre-application advice which is charged at £100/hour. So the site would have had a charge of £6.5k if the habitats charge was included - which we think it will - giving a fourfold increase.

We also looked at a MRF site that required a bespoke permit because it was just inside the 500m SSSI limit. This cost £3713 but under the new system, there will be a application charge of £13984 plus a MRF Code of Practice charge of £2240 plus additional charges that we believe would take the cost up to around £20k.

There are also big increases in WEEE charges with Producer Compliance Schemes having to pay an annual £12500 and £800/large member compared to the current zero for the scheme and £210/445 for large members depending on turnover. AATF charges rise from £2570 to £3500 for large and £500 to £600 for small.

The consultation closes on 26th January, an 8 week response period with Christmas in the middle. The charges are included in 3 separate documents  alongside the consultation questions:

The devil in this one is definitely in the detail. There is no quick comparison table and it takes a lot of very knowledgeable scrutiny to understand a number of the charges. There is no mention of Schedule 5 notices, for instance, but they talk about 'additional information charges' of £1200 per request which will be applied after the first two requests that currently seem served by the Schedule 5.

In our opinion, this consultation raises the question of whether these charges are simply to plug a funding gap or will lead to more effective enforcement, especially of non-compliant or illegal sites. The risk of this scale of increase is that it will drive more operators - especially small ones - to try and operate illegally and therefore simply increase the problem. It is difficult to see, for instance, how a large subsistence fee is justified when many sites receive no Agency visits for a number of years. And a 'habitats' charge of £779 for something that can be quickly carried out on Magic seems difficult to justify. 

We would urge all those affected by EA fees to scrutinise this consultation very carefully well before the closing date of 26th January.