Before starting work on a construction site you must make sure that you have the necessary Permits, Authorisations or Licences from your environmental regulator or from other bodies such as the Local Council, Scottish Water or Nature.Scot.

Construction works can affect the water environment in a number of ways. Depending on the activity being carried out you may require authorisation from SEPA under the Controlled Activity Regulations (CAR). 

The level of authorisation required depends on the effect that the activity will have on the water environment. The levels of authorisation are as follows: 

  • General Binding Rules (GBRs) provide statutory controls over certain low risk activities such as:
  • Discharge from waterbound roads and tracks (GBR22)
  • Discharge to surface water systems (GBR 11)
  • Discharge from a quarry or borrow pit (GBR 10C)
  • Discharges from any construction site to the water environment including roads and tracks not covered by a site Licence (GBR 10D)


  • You will need a Registration if you carry out a number of low-risk activities which added together can pose a risk to the water environment.


  • A Licence is needed if site-specific controls are required, due to particular activities you need to carry out, or particular features of the site you are working on. These might limit or put constraints on your operations on the site. A licence might cover a number of activities on a site.

A licence is also required for all discharges from a construction site to the water environment including any constructed access tracks if:

  • The site has an area greater than 4ha, or
  • There is more than 5 km of access track, or
  • There is more than 1ha, or a length >500m, of ground with a slope >25 degrees


SEPA: Controlled Activities Regulations (CAR) A Practical Guide

Please contact SEPA to discuss on 03000 99 66 99


Engineering works in or near water.

This could include:

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


You can check with: SEPA: Controlled Activities Regulations (CAR) A Practical Guide to find out what type of authorisation you require.  

The type of authorisation you require depends on the scale of the works and the potential impact on the water environment. It could require that you follow the requirements of a General Binding Rule (GBR) for the low impact activities. Depending on the type and scale of the engineering works you might need either a Registration, a Simple Licence or a Complex Licence.


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.

NatureScot: Data and information on protected sites across Scotland

Permission will be required from NatureScot for works on designated sites such as those listed above. If permission is not given, then you can’t go ahead with the works.

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

NatureScot is the conservation body for Scotland.

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

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