Licensing change ‘could result in project delays’

Simon Knott

AN environmental specialist has warned of potentially significant delays to Scottish construction projects due to lack of awareness over a recent change to licensing requirements.

Simon Knott, managing director of environmental consultancy Naturally Compliant, revealed that since the start of this year, construction projects larger than four hectares or longer than 5km are obliged to obtain a “complex licence”.

He said 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.

Simon warned that approval of licence applications by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) can take up to four months.

“As outlined in these regulations, projects are now obliged to apply for a complex licence, should they meet the criteria,” Simon explained. “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.”

Simon added that some developers may apply 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.”