After introducing a charging system to the pre application advice service, a currently free of charge provision, the Environment Agency (EA) has been met with many questions and concerns.
The charges relate to advice provided on any Environment Agency service in relation to Town and Country Planning. This will include issues such as Flood Risk and Contaminated Land.
The EA will continue to offer a free but basic service, providing information on their standing advice. This will provide a preliminary opinion that either the EA has no concerns, has some concerns that need addressing, or that they will likely object to any application.
This scheme was rolled out across the South East on 2nd January, and will be enforced across East Anglia by the end of March 2014.
Striving to enable development, agb Environmental often works very closely with the Environment Agency; and so may experience a change to its services on more complex projects.
To date, this engagement has been particularly helpful, as it has ensured that there are no surprises when submitting the formal planning application, saving considerable time and money during the planning process.
There are, however, some questions remaining in relation to the liability held by the Environmental Agency as a result of the services. Other concerns that have started to arise include the application of the charges, the level of transparency with charging, the grade, seniority and experience of the individual that is responding and how complaints will be handled. Though the EA has assured us that their advice will be quoted for upfront at the start of their involvement.
Commenting on the decision, Managing Director of agb Environmental, Alex Brearley, said: “It is interesting that this approach has been taken. In the majority of cases, developers will essentially be charged by the EA for its advice on the remediation of historically contaminated land.
“It would perhaps be more understandable if the EA were proposing something akin to the HSE Fee For Intervention (FFI) approach when there is a statutory breach of health and safety law.
“There is a lot of confusion surrounding this proposal by the EA, but our team is keeping abreast of the situation through trade and professional contacts, such as the East Land Quality Forum. As clarity is provided by the EA, we will ensure our clients and fee proposals accurately reflect the charging scenario.”
The charging system will be implemented in January 2014, where a rate of £84 per hour is currently proposed.
For further information and to discussion contaminated land, geotechnical assessments, flood risk assessments, ecology surveys or arboricultural surveys, please contact Alex Brearley on 01638 663226 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.