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Getting Involved - Scotland

Are you concerned about water pollution or keen to help protect the water environment in Scotland?

You can help deal with water pollution incidents, and make your views known about new potential sources of water pollution (and other impacts on the water environment) if you live in Scotland.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)

If you become aware of a pollution incident or even a potential risk to the water environment, you should contact SEPA immediately. (SEPA does not deal with drinking water quality complaints.) Contact details for SEPA are provided in the further resources page.

Making your views known

When a person or company wants to start a new operation (or change an existing one) that would involve a discharge to the water environment, or any other potential impact on the water environment such as a new dam or weir, they have to apply to SEPA for authorisation to carry on that activity under the Controlled Activities Regulations 2011 (CAR). SEPA has to consider the application and decide whether to grant it or not.

Applications for activities that involve a greater risk to the water environment, or to the interests of other water users, have to be advertised, usually in a local newspaper and the Edinburgh Gazette – see CAR regulation 13. This gives members of the public like you (known as ‘third parties’) the opportunity to make your views known to SEPA. SEPA has to take account of any third party submissions as long as they are received within 28 days of the advert.

When SEPA has practically made its mind up whether or not to grant the application, it has to contact all the third parties who made submissions following the advert, and let them know what it proposes to do – see CAR regulation 16. If SEPA plans to grant the application, it needs to let them see a copy of the draft authorisation and all its conditions.

Any third party who objects to SEPA’s proposed decision then has 21 days to appeal to the Scottish Ministers, and ask them to ‘call in’ the application in order to determine it themselves. This is known as a ‘call-in request’. In most cases only the applicant can appeal against SEPA’s decision, so this is sometimes referred to as a ‘third party appeal’.

The Scottish Ministers have to consider any call-in request, and within 6 weeks they must decide either to endorse SEPA’s proposed determination, or to call in the application and initiate their own determination process. Within this period they sometimes ask SEPA for more information about how it came to its proposed decision.

If the Scottish Ministers do call in any application under CAR, they can hold a public local inquiry as part of the new determination process – see CAR regulation 20.

The Scottish Government issued a policy statement in 2006 about the process for handling third party appeals. It is available here. (It refers to the regulations as originally numbered in CAR 2005, which now have different numbers in CAR 2011.)

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