Before starting work on a construction site you must make sure that you have the correct permits, authorisations or licences.

These might be necessary if you intend to carry out works that could cause harm to the environment. Permits, Authorisations or Licences can be from your environmental regulator, and could also include authorisations from other organisations such as your local council, nature protection agencies or other public bodies.

What you need will depend on where the construction works will be carried out.

Northern Ireland

Trade effluent and site drainage discharge consent

Any discharge to a waterway, or to groundwater (any water contained in underground strata) that contains:

  • trade effluent
  • sewage effluent
  • any other poisonous, noxious or polluting substance

must be authorised by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

You must make an application for a trade effluent and site drainage discharge consent.

To comply with your discharge consent you must prevent contaminated water entering waterways or groundwater.

You will have to:

  • Store and handle materials carefully. This includes materials such as fuel, cement, cleaning materials and paint.  Handle them carefully to prevent leaks or spills.
  • Minimise the amount of silty water produced on site. During the construction phase the use of filter strips, swales and cut off ditches, combined with settlement ponds or settlement tanks can effectively control silty runoff and protect nearby watercourses. These must be designed to cope with the volume of runoff that can be expected from the site.
  • Minimise the amount of silty water runoff. You can do this by maintaining a buffer strip between exposed areas and any ditches, drains or watercourses. You should also only remove vegetation from the area that you are working on, keeping exposed ground to a minimum. Channelling clean water away from your working area will also reduce the volume of contaminated water that you need to deal with.


Consent to undertake works to a watercourse

You must get permission If you plan to discharge to a watercourse, or intend to carry out works that will impact on the free flow of a watercourse;

This could include:

  • Sediment management
  • Bank reinforcement, embankments, floodwalls and other bank modifications
  • Bridges and other types of crossing structures
  • In-stream or in-lough structures
  • Channel modifications


You must get approval for your works from DfI Rivers.

You can find information on services for developers from NI Water


Licence to work on or near a Protected site.

What is a protected site?

Many areas with distinctive plants, animals, habitats, geology, or landforms are protected at the international, national, and local level. Some habitats have been identified as needing priority conservation action.

European Protected Species of animals, their breeding sites and resting places, are protected against disturbance and harm.

Authorisation may be required for works within designated sites such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest – contact DAERA to check.

If you plan to use weed killers in or near protected sites contact  Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) Water Management Unit on Tel 0300 200 7850.

DAERA: Advice on Pesticides for water protection in Northern Ireland


See our e-learning course on Nature and Biodiversity for Construction sites.


Planning permission

Planning permission – You must have planning permission from your local council before starting works. Contact your Local Planning Authority.

Trade effluent consents

Consent for discharging to the public foul/combined sewer. This could be for temporary discharges to sewer during construction, or for permanent connections made as part of the construction project.  Contact Northern Ireland Water to apply/discuss.

Applying herbicides

If you plan to use herbicides to control weeds you may need authorisation from NIEA - see the NIEA website.

You may require consent for pesticide activities within an ASSI. Contact NIEA Natural Environment Division at

Any other approvals that you might need can be found by contacting the NIEA

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