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Vary an authorisation

Vary an authorisation

It is important that SEPA's authorisations are kept up to date and therefore accurately reflect the activities that they cover. There are a wide range of reasons why an authorisation may require updating by variation.

Operator initiated variations

For charging fee purposes, we categorise an application for variation of an authorisation, which is initiated by the authorisation holder, into one of three types:

  • administrative,
  • standard,
  • substantial.

The application charges for these largely depend on the amount of technical work we may have to carry out in order to approve the application.

Application forms for variation can be found here.

The table below gives a summary of operator initiated variation types and the approach to application charges* that will apply:

Operator Initiated Variation Type



Variation Application Charge*

(% of the application charge for new activity)



Substantial variation charge is the default variation charge.


It applies where SEPA must carry out significant technical work in order to determine the application.


Where an operator proposes to substantially** change the operation of an authorisation in a way that may have a significant negative effect on the environment or human health and wellbeing, we will be required to carry out a significant amount of technical work. The scale of this work may be comparable to

that for assessing a new application. We may also be required to advertise an application for a substantial variation.


Examples of substantial variations include:


·       The addition of a new activity not previously covered by the authorisation requiring a technical assessment comparable to a new application.

·       Changes such as a significant or substantial** increase in scale / emissions or change in nature of the process (such as volume discharged / abstracted, operating conditions, duration, treatment techniques), which increase the risk to the environment and where we need to make an assessment.


Note variations to CAR and WML licences will generally be substantial unless they are clearly administrative or meet the criteria for standard variations.






Where SEPA will not carry out technical assessment work to assess the variation


Examples include:

·       changes or correction of errors in the authorisation such as name and address, grid references etc;

·       the reduction in the scale of authorised activity;

·       the removal of waste type from list of acceptable waste types etc.




Where SEPA must carry out technical work in order to determine the application- such as carrying out a site visit or desk based assessment.



Examples of standard variation include:

·       The addition of an activity to an authorisation, of a type already covered by that authorisation. The addition of the new activity should be of a relatively small scale so that it does not have a significant adverse impact on the environment or human health and wellbeing; an increase in storage capacities which would not impact on emissions etc

·       Changes that result in a reduction in impact and involving little technical work (reduced volume abstracted, reduced emissions etc) will generally be considered standard variations.




*  please always check the latest situation regarding charges here: Charging schemes and summary charging booklets

**  for permits issued under PPC regs see following guidance for further details ied_tg_03_identifying_a_substantial_change_variation.pdf (


SEPA initiated variations

There will usually be no charge associated with SEPA-initiated variations. These are considered to be part of SEPA's on-going work and the costs are usually recovered across a sector via SEPA's annual charges. However, in certain cases such variations may require extensive work, involving a lot of additional work and resources. In these circumstances SEPA may require operators to submit a variation application and levy an application charge. In such cases there will be discussions between SEPA and the operator. SEPA may also impose variations on non-compliant operators as part of enforcement action, these will attract the appropriate variation application fee plus a surcharge.

Full guidance and examples of each type of variation can be viewed within Section 3.6 of the charging scheme guidance document here.

If you have any queries about the variation process or the application charge which should apply please contact ( or or for advice.