Consultation launched to review Environment Agency permit charges

The Environment Agency is launching a consultation on proposed changes to water quality permitting charges

  • The Environment Agency is launching a consultation on proposed changes to water quality permitting charges.
  • The proposed changes will increase charge income for the Environment Agency, allowing it to take tougher action on pollution.
  • This is the first time permit charges have been reviewed since 2018.

A consultation on proposed changes to the Environment Agency’s water quality permit charges has been launched today (29 January). The proposed changes will transform the way the EA regulates the water industry, helping it to improve environmental performance.

The Environment Agency is responsible for regulating water quality in England, including storm overflow discharges. It funds these activities through environmental permitting charges, which are applied both when an application for a permit is made and annually to cover the costs of regulating the permit. 

Increased funding will allow for more boots on the ground working to regulate water companies, as well as the advancement of digital and data capabilities to target efforts in the right places. These changes will support the industry to implement good practice and allow the Environment Agency to act on pollution and non-compliance.

The EA announced in November 2021 that it was conducting the largest ever criminal investigation into potential widespread non-compliance by water and sewerage companies at thousands of sewage treatment works. Its tough enforcement action has already led to over £150m in fines since 2015.

Water quality charges were last updated in 2018 and since then inflation rises have put pressure on the Environment Agency’s funding. Most existing permits are held by water companies and this sector will see the biggest proposed increase in charges, however customers from other sectors – including agriculture, recreation, and hospitality – will also see increases. We are encouraging all those impacted by proposed changes to respond to the consultation as feedback will be vital for shaping the final approach.

The public consultation will run for six weeks, with an Environment Agency response published in due course setting out next steps. Changes to permitting are due to come into force in spring 2024.

Environment Agency
Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs