National Permitting Service delays set to continue into 2021

As the National Permitting Service continues to adapt to the COVID-19 new-normal, the team at Wiser Environment have been taking proactive steps. In response to Environment Agency permit application delays, the Wiser Environment permitting team have taken the following actions: maintain high-quality permit submissions, effective regulator communication and hold the Environment Agency to account.

In March 2020, Wiser Environment first raised concerns about delays emitting from the National Permitting Service (NPS) of the Environment Agency (EA). At that time the primary cause for the delay was that the EA was having difficulty organising their remote teams.

As Wiser rightfully predicted, permit applications began to bottleneck at the duly making and determination stages. For example, many of Wiser’s clients saw turn-around times for “Duly Making” application submissions increase by 8 weeks. In response to the NPS slowdown, businesses began to maintain their compliance via local area agreements.

Originally, Wiser Environment’s sources were confident that these NPS delays would be temporary and by June they would be back up to speed. As the whole industry moves towards a new-normal, it is clear that NPS delays are likely to persist until 2021.

Permit application determination times

Sources confirm that the EA is set to operate with a reduced workforce or overall reduced working hours for the next 6 months. The intention here is to limit the number of officers working from home and avoid overloading the EA IT systems. In a COVID-19 statement, the EA confirms the situation:

“Whilst we’re making every effort to maintain our permitting service, it’s inevitable that there will be some disruption as we work in unprecedented circumstances. We are taking slightly longer than normal to determine permit applications in some of our permitting sectors, but are continuing to adapt our working to reduce these wherever we can and as quickly as possible.”

Wiser Environment understands that the EA is in a tough place. With the intention of improving this unfavourable situation for waste businesses, Wiser has taken the following proactive action.

G Webb's alternative measure fire prevention plan

An alternative measure fire prevention plan authorised by the EA during COVID-19.

Proactive action to improve turnaround times

Firstly, the Wiser Environment permitting team has maintained their high-quality permit application submissions. The aim here is to make the EA’s role in the permit application process as easy as possible. With strong attention to detail, permit applications and supporting documents produced by Wiser on behalf of our clients are comprehensive. Using their practical knowledge and a risk-based approach, the Wiser permitting team prides themselves on successfully achieving permit applications for clients. Even during the height of COVID-19, Wiser was still able to get permit applications determined and accepted.

The second proactive action Wiser Environment implemented to ensure that NPS delays are limited is to work closely with determining officers. A longstanding practice of Wiser’s is to effectively communicate with the EA throughout the permit application process. Liaising with the regulator in this way gives them the opportunity to raise concerns ahead of time – speeding up the permit application process. Effective communication also allows the Wiser permitting team to provide the EA with clarity and direction; eliminating confusion and needless stalling.

The third and most impactful action is to influence senior roles within the EA by representing clients and waste operators during meetings. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, Wiser Environment’s Directors have been holding frequent meetings with EA senior management. In these meetings, Wiser holds the EA to account and pushes for better regulation.

Wiser Environment is ready and available to help support the waste and resource industry in recovering from the COVID-19 setback. In cooperation with clients, Wiser can produce comprehensive permit applications that have a high chance of being successful. Furthermore, Wiser’s senior and experienced consultants can represent waste businesses and ensure they receive the regulation they need. For more information contact Wiser Environment or call on 01480 462232.