Defra Environmental Permitting (England & Wales) Regulations 2016 Update for Cemetery Managers

7 April 2022

In 2021, Defra ran a consultation on proposed amendments to the Environmental Permitting (England & Wales) Regulations 2016 as applied to groundwater activities and related surface water discharge activities. SLCC issued a response to this consultation on behalf of members in December 2021.

Defra received 264 consultation responses and to allow sufficient time to consider these, it is delaying the publication of the summary of responses and government response until May 2022. In the meantime, the Environment Agency (EA) has issued a separate update for those involved in the management of cemeteries:

From 1 April 2022 the regulatory approach for high environmental risk cemetery developments changed, which was planned for some time.

What is changing?

Any proposed new cemetery development that is considered to present significantly high environmental risk will also require an environmental permit under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016.

The EA considers a new development to mean a proposed new cemetery site, and new extensions to sites that require planning permission authorising a change of use of land to permit burials.

The changes have previously been communicated, but unfortunately the work was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. The EA is now in a position to be able to bring high risk cemetery developments into the permitting regime.

It is important to note that these changes are separate from the recent Defra consultation on proposed changes to the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2016. The response to that consultation will be published by Defra shortly.

What does this mean for cemetery owners/operators?

For the majority of cemetery owners/operators, this change will have no effect and you do not need to do anything. Existing sites requiring no ongoing mitigation measures to protect the environment do not require environmental permits. If this applies to your site, you do not need to contact us.

From 1 April, when you submit a planning application for a proposed new cemetery or to extend an existing cemetery, you will be told whether you also need to apply for a permit for your site. We are only requiring environmental permits for the highest risk sites.

If you developed your site during the pandemic and were told by the EA at the time that you would need to apply for a permit following the pandemic, then you now need to apply. You can apply here for an environmental permit. 

Where to go for more information

There is updated guidance available at GOV.UK:

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