Environment Agency - Pre application and post permission advice

The Environment Agency can provide you with site-specific pre-application advice and they would like to hear from you if your proposed development site is:

  • in flood zones 2 or 3; (unless their Flood Risk Standing Advice applies);
  • Contains or is close proximity to a 'main river';
  • is on land affected by contamination;
  • handles waste or hazardous substances (including fuels and oils).

The Environment Agency will highlight any issues to you in a free written preliminary opinion. The preliminary opinion will highlight the sites constraints within their remit, identify any related documents that you will need to submit at the planning application stage, and reference any further assessments, licences or consents that you will require from them. As a minimum they will require a site plan and a brief description of the proposed use.

For sites within Stevenage please send your enquiry to SPHatfield@environment-agency.gov.uk.

Any additional technical advice (including pre-application or post-permission comments) requested outside of the preliminary opinion, such as site visits, meetings or documents reviewed, will be chargeable at a rate of £84 per hour. Further details of the service provided by the Environment Agency are available on the Governments Gov.uk website.

The Environment Agency’s role in development and how they can help

Combining their expertise with Natural England and the Forestry Commission, the Environment Agency has produced guidance that explains their roles in new developments. “Building a Better Environment” provides initial information to help you make the most of new development for people and the environment, and how they can help you through the process. They also signpost technical advice, including consents and permits you may need for your development.

What’s in your backyard?

The Environment Agency offers a range of detailed maps – “What’s in your backyard” which will show you various environmental constraints that may affect your development. These maps include:

  • Groundwater aquifers;
  • Groundwater Source Protection Zones (SPZs);
  • Flood maps;
  • Main rivers;
  • River quality;
  • Historic landfill sites.

Flood Risk Assessment

Flood Risk Assessments (FRA) will be reviewed for fluvial flood risk by either Stevenage Borough Council or the Environment Agency. Additionally, the Lead Local Flood Authority will assess surface water flood risk for major developments.

The Environment Agency will review your Flood Risk Assessment for certain sites in Flood Zone 2 and most sited in Flood Zone 3. Some applications, such as the majority of householder extension, will fall under the Environment Agency Flood Risk Standing Advice (FRSA) and therefore, may not require a detailed Flood Risk Assessment. Where your proposal is covered by the FRSA, you should consult us directly to discuss our requirements.

Planning permission may not be granted until the Flood Risk Assessment has been approved. See the Site Specific Flood Risk Assessment Checklist and other advice available in the National Planning Practice Guidance.

Flood Defence Consents

If you are proposing to carry out any development works within eight metres of the top of a bank of a Main River, including demolition, construction or storage, you will require a Flood Defence Consent, in addition to any planning permission granted from the Environment Agency. Additionally, works may also require further assessment (such as a Water Framework Directive Assessment) depending on the impacts you development will have on the river. You are strongly advised to contact the Environment Agency directly for any proposals close to a watercourse.

Land contamination

If your development site is known or suspected to be contaminated (including from previous uses such as industry, fuel storage or agriculture), or the development itself would generate contaminants, a Preliminary Risk Assessment (PRA) needs to be submitted with your planning application. The Environment Agency guidance states that they often need to object to such applications without a PRA, and this aspect cannot be satisfied by way of a planning condition.

Groundwater Protection

Groundwater supplies up to 70% of fresh drinking water for this area. The Environment Agency’s Ground Water Protection: Principles and Practice document outlines the position that they take to ensure that developments have a limited impact on groundwater supplies.

Pollution prevention advice and guidance

You will need to refer to the relevant Pollution Prevention Guidance (PPGs) for advice and guidance on how to prevent pollution during the demolition and construction phases of your development.

Water efficiency

The south-east region is a highly stressed area for water resources, with a significant proportion of drinking water supplies being sourced from groundwater. The future impacts of population growth and climate change will place additional pressures on these water resources. Therefore, your development should be designed to include water efficiency measures, such as low-flow taps and shower heads, dual-flush toilets and water butts in gardens. Ideally, developments should achieve water usage of 110 litres per person per day in line with the Governments Technical Standards for Water Efficiency.

Biodiversity and river restoration

If your development site includes a watercourse or water-dependent habitat within its boundary, or, is located in close proximity to a watercourse or water dependant habitat such as wet woodland or floodplain marsh, you must always seek to conserve and enhance these habitats and where possible provide new similar habitats. Watercourses should be left with an appropriate sized, development-free buffer zone on both sides of the relevant channel. Usually, a minimum of eight metres on both sides of the water course will be required. Riparian owners should seek to protect and enhance the watercourses on their land and carry out any Water Framework Directive actions in line with the Thames River Basin Management Plan.

You should also incorporate Green Infrastructure as part of your development proposal to provide a network of multi-functional green spaces. These spaces should be capable of delivering a wide range of environmental and quality of life benefits for local communities.

Useful links

Environment Agency