Cyber-attack & data theft: Our response & service status

Construction site licences

Service status

A sophisticated criminal cyber-attack has had a major impact on the way SEPA works. We are working through all the services that we provide to understand what we need to do in the short and longer term to restore services. We are approaching this work with a sense of urgency.

Service status update 10 June 2021: Construction site licences (run off permits)

What are we able to do now?

We are now able to accept new applications and pre-application proposals

What should you do now?

Email application forms along with supporting information to

Email pre-application proposal and supporting information to

Next update: 18 June 2021

Construction site licences

If you are responsible for the operation of a construction site, you must ensure that discharges of water run-off from that site to the water environment do not cause pollution.

Water run-off means water from rainfall or meltwater from ice or snowflowing over, or horizontally through, the surface of the ground; and any matter picked up by that water as it does so.

You do not need to apply to SEPA for authorisation provided that you operate the site in accordance with the general binding rules specified in the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011, as amended (CAR)  and the construction site does not:

  • exceed 4 hectares in area;
  • contain a road or track length in excess of 5km; or
  • include any area of more than 1 hectares or any length of more than 500 metres on ground with a slope in excess of 25 degrees.

Details of these rules can also be found in the CAR practical guide.

If your construction site exceeds any of the above thresholds, you must apply to SEPA for an authorisation to discharge water run-off from the site.

Which sites do the regulations apply to?

The regulations apply to any sites on which a track, road, building, yard, vehicle parking area, pipeline or any other infrastructure is being constructed. Construction includes any land preparation required, demolition work or ground remediation.

The regulations do not apply to sites from which all water run-off will be drained to the public sewer system. You must get agreement from Scottish Water to drain the site in this way.

Which sites require a licence from SEPA?

You will need a licence from SEPA if your construction site will:

  • have an area greater than 4 hectares;
  • include a road, track or other linear structure of greater than 5km in length; or
  • have an area of more than 1 hectare, or a length of more than 500 metres, on ground with a slope in excess of 25 degrees.

We will normally consider the area identified in the planning application for the site to be the area of the construction site.

If you are phasing construction work across a site, and that the area/length in construction at any one time will remain below the above limits, you will not need a licence from SEPA provided you comply with the general binding rules.

Phasing in this context means that

a)    all construction work on an area is complete before any construction work (including any land preparation work) on any other area of the site commences

b)    the final drainage solution (SUDS) is installed and operational for the area; and

c)    once work starts on any other areas of the site, no water run-off from those other areas drains to, or via, the area in which construction is complete.

What do I need to do?

I am planning to commence construction after 1 September 2018

You must not commence any construction work (including land preparation) on, or after, 1 September 2018 at a site for which a licence is required without:

  • having first obtained a licence from SEPA; and
  • adhering to a pollution prevention plan for the site that SEPA has reviewed.

You may submit your pollution prevention plan to SEPA when making your application for a licence or, if necessary, at a later date.

You will need to allow sufficient time for SEPA to determine the licence and review the pollution prevention plan. Normally, you should allow up to four months for SEPA to issue an authorisation and consider your pollution prevention plan.

If your planned start date is in September or October 2018, please let us know as soon as possible so that we can work with you to ensure your licence and pollution prevention plan are in place in time for your start date.

I have already commenced construction or will have done so by 1 September 2018

If you first commenced construction work on your site prior to 1 September 2018, you can continue to work on the site without having first obtained a licence and had your pollution prevention plan reviewed by SEPA. However, you must ensure that water run-off from the site does not cause pollution of the water environment.

Please contact us for advice on obtaining a licence for your site and about pollution prevention plan requirements. What you will be expected to do will depend on the length of time before you expect to complete construction. If construction work will continue for any significant length of time beyond 1 September 2018, you should submit a licence application and pollution prevention plan to SEPA for review.

Applying for a CAR licence

We are currently unable to receive, verify or determine applications for Controlled Activities in the Water Environment. Please do not submit any application and contact us if you require authorisation within the next three weeks.

To apply for a construction site licence, please complete application forms A and B. You can submit your pollution prevention plan at the same time as the licence application or at a later date.

Your pollution prevention plan is your plan for how you will prevent water run-off from your site from causing pollution of the water environment. It should cover pollution control infrastructure as well as site management.

We have prepared guidance relating to what we expect to see in a pollution prevention plan. Following this guidance will enable us to review the plan quickly and hence avoid delays.

Adherence to the pollution prevention plan will be a condition of your licence for the site.

The cost of a CAR licence

The application and regulation of the Construction Site Licence will be based on the size of the activity as described below:

Main activity


Licence Level

Application fee

Subsistence fee per year


Discharge of water run-off from a construction site to the water environment where the site, including any constructed access tracks does not:

  • exceed 4 hectares;
  • contain a road or track length in excess of 5km; or
  • include any area of more than 1 hectare or any length of more than 500 metres on ground with a slope in excess of 25 degrees.


General Binding Rule (GBR)

No charge

No charge

Controlled activities licence

Discharge of water run-off from a construction site to the water environment where the site, including any constructed access tracks has:

  • an area greater than 4 hectares;
  • a road, track or other linear structure of greater than 5km in length; or
  • an area of more than 1 hectare or a length of more than 500 metres on ground with a slope in excess of 25 degrees.

Single lane road or track (no wider than 4 metre except at passing places, turning areas or bends in order to allow large   vehicles to negotiate them) or other linear services – e.g. rail line, pipeline, power-line - with a length of between 5 - 10km


Developments with an area of up to 4Ha containing at least 1Ha of 25 or more degrees slope; or with a length of up to 10km containing at least 500m of 25 or more degrees slope.




Area of the construction site between 4 and 15 hectares (approx. 10 acres to 37 acres) for transport infrastructure, housing and any other construction projects


Single lane road or track (wider than 4 metres), or rail line, pipeline/other linear services with a length greater than 10km.




Large construction projects where the area of the construction site is greater than 15 hectares (greater than approx. 37 acres) for transport infrastructure, housing and any other construction project.


Time and materials at £94/hour.

Time and materials at £94/hour.

If a development is being constructed in area-based phases, the above limits may be applied to each separate area provided that:

  • construction work in the phased area is complete before any construction work commences on any other areas of the site, including any land preparation on those other areas;
  • once work starts on other areas of the site, no water run-off from those other areas drains to, or via, an area in which construction is complete. 

Fees are based on current charging scheme. The Environmental Regulation (Scotland) Charging Scheme   2018 and Amendment and are subject to change.

Frequently asked questions

Can we change who is the Responsible Person?

Yes, you are able to change who is the Responsible Person by applying to transfer the licence to the new Responsible Person. This is described in section 9, WAT-RM-09: Modifications to CAR authorisations.

Is the compound regarded as part of the construction site?

If the compound is not within or directly connected to the site (i.e. it is remote) then it would not be considered to be part of the site. If the access road between the site and compound it not in your ownership or under your control (i.e. public road), then they are not directly connected.

However, if it is a construction site in its own right and would fit within GBR10 (if it exceeds the thresholds in GBR10) it would need a licence in its own right.

Are engineering activities being undertaken on site in terms of access track water crossings, are these covered by construction site licence?

Engineering activities affecting inland surface waters or wetlands are separate activities and require to be authorised accordingly. It is possible for the responsible person to request these activities be included within the same licence or keep separate authorisations.

Note: If engineering activities are included in construction SUDS project-based licence then no separate engineering application fees are payable and these would be incorporated into the project code charging on a time and materials basis for the whole licence. For all other licences the applicable application and subsistence fees will be applied.

Following completion of construction site activities, what is required?

Following completion of construction activities the responsible person can surrender the licence. There may be other authorisations required for example discharges from final SUDS. If the site is still utilising construction SUDS then this would be considered as an active construction site. Only once discharge is put to final SUDS (with appropriate authorisation) would a surrender be appropriate.

A licence has been granted for a construction site, when do the subsistence fees start?

Where subsistence fees apply they will automatically start from the date on which the authorisation is issued. It is possible for the fees to be deferred to a later date if the work has not commenced onsite.

For further information please refer to section 6.1 of the charging scheme. There is a fee waiver guidance and application form available on our website .

You must inform us, in advance, of when operations are due to start on site as the fee waiver will no longer be applicable.


Does a site which is being remediated as a contaminated land site need a construction SUDS licence?

Sites (greater than the threshold criteria) being remediated due to land contamination would require a construction SUDS licence. This is in addition to requirements under Part IIa of the Environment Protection Act 1990.

If a site currently has final SUDS or trade effluent (surface water) authorisation as it exists and site is to be redeveloped then the current authorisation would not cover construction and temporary SUDS therefore would require a construction site licence.

We have a new quarry site that will be greater than 4ha. Would this require a construction SUDS licence, GBR or a trade effluent licence?

A construction SUDS licence would only be required where the new access track to the quarry is greater than 5km. The quarry site would be regulated as before, with a trade effluent licence.

Further information and guidance