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Construction activities cover a wide variation in scale and complexity, and can involve one or more activities which require regulation by SEPA.

This page provides a reference point to guidance for those involved in carrying out construction activities, which may impact the water environment, and defines those activities which may require authorisation by SEPA. Please note other legislation/permission may apply, for example waste management licencing and PPC Part B pollution prevention and control.

The legislation that is applicable is the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 more commonly known as CAR regulations – and their amendments. In addition to the information below, the CAR practical guide gives more information about the regulations and how they are implemented.

Why do construction activities need to be regulated?

Serious environmental harm could result from a variety of construction activities, such as excessive siltation from run-off, impeding fish migration or impacts on fish spawning.

In order to prevent harm, all developers and contractors should assess the proposed activities and ensure that adequate mitigation is planned, and all regulatory permissions that are required are obtained from SEPA before starting works. 

Construction and sector plans

Construction is essentially a cross sectoral issue but there are two key sectors which we have covered within our sector plan approach and which cover a large part of all construction. Moving our regulation from individual sites to a sectoral approach supports the aim that all regulated businesses fully meet their compliance objectives and as many as possible go further. The applicable sector plans are:

Do the regulations apply to me and what do I need to do?

Construction activities can involve a wide range of activities which may require authorisation from SEPA. These activities include:

  • discharging run-off from construction area;
  • the construction of bridges and culverts;
  • work on the river bank;
  • diversion and realignment of rivers and streams;
  • the installation of coffer dams;
  • dewatering excavations;
  • use of herbicides.

A Construction Regulatory Guide has been produced to help you work through the types of activity which may require authorisation and provides links to relevant guidance and application forms.

Detailed guidance is also available regarding the regulation of run-off from construction sites.

Supporting information for applications

Guidance on the following subjects is currently under development and links will be made available on publication of the documents. If you have any questions regarding any of these, please contact the local environmental protection team and/or water permitting using the contact us form.

  • Fish protection guidance – covering spawning
  • Design drawings
  • Engineering checklists

Compliance with regulations

Prior to starting construction, it’s important to make sure all relevant regulatory permissions have been obtained.

Licences authorised under CAR are regulated by our compliance assessment scheme and Enforcement policy

Operators are expected to uphold the conditions of their registration or licence and SEPA have powers to withdraw your authorisation if you fail to meet its conditions.

If you do not agree with the conditions and requirements imposed by a CAR authorisation or notice, you can make an appeal directly to the Scottish Government. The submission of an appeal does not suspend the operations of all authorisations or notices and its conditions.

Help, advice and more information

If you require any further help or advice at any stage during the application process, or want to submit a pre-application proposal and supporting information please email

You can email application forms along with supporting information to