Public participation: how you can take part in our permit and licence consultations

Why and when we consult

Our purpose is to ensure that the natural resources of Wales are sustainably maintained, enhanced and used, now and in the future. Our current responsibilities provide us direct contact with some 1,700 industrial, waste and water sites across Wales. We also grant over 10,000 permits, 65,000 fishing rod licences, 480 tree felling licences and 100 marine licences a year.

This public participation statement focuses on the principal teams within the permitting service that undertake consultations as part of their determination process. It does not cover all permitting, licencing and permission activities NRW undertakes, for example it does not include SSSI consenting, exemptions or fishing rod licences.   

Our regulatory role is established through a mix of European Directives, UK Legislation and policy which specify the types of activities we regulate and require us to undertake certain duties such as issuing permits, checking compliance and monitoring.  We consult on certain applications to comply with the requirements of the relevant environmental legislation and on any applications we consider consultation to be appropriate whether there is a legal requirement to consult or not. 

We are required legally to consult on new bespoke permit and licence applications for:

  • installations
  • waste facilities (and those involving mining waste activities)
  • water quality
  • water resources (note: We have the power to suspend consultation requirements for some applications)
  • radioactive substance activities (except for sealed sources)
  • medium combustion plant / specified generator activities (only where we believe the operation of the regulated facility may have significant negative effects on human beings or the environment)
  • substantial variation applications (installations only)
  • marine licence applications (excluding band 1 applications)

We are not legally required to undertake consultation as part of the decision-making process for:

  • flood risk activity permits
  • species licences
  • band 1 marine licence applications

However, we may choose to consult on applications for these regimes if we feel they may be of high public interest. 

We also do not consult on applications for standard rule permits or any parts of an application that are commercial confidential or detail national security controls.

We are also not legally required to undertake consultations as part of the decision-making process for felling licence applications and when coming to our decision as to whether a project requires an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). However, we do publicise applications for these regimes.

How we make our decisions

Our decisions on whether to issue or refuse a permit or licence are defined by legal requirements. We are required to justify our decision within the boundaries of the limitations of the law.

Our permits, licences and permissions contain conditions to protect the environment and people. We set restrictions and limits on activities we need to control and, where necessary, require the monitoring of emissions to air, water and land. We consider a variety of issues including for example any potential impact upon navigation and potential impact on legitimate use of the sea for marine licensing, impacts upon flood risk and drainage for flood risk activity permits and protection of rest and breeding sites against disturbance, damage and destroying for species licensing.

Legally, we must issue a permit or licence if the applicant can show that all the legal requirements will be met. We cannot lawfully refuse a permit or licence solely due to local opposition to the activity.

Are permits and licences the same as planning permission?

Our work and decisions are separate from the planning process. They may seem similar in some aspects to planning permission but they are still separate and independent processes and permissions.

Often, applicants will need a permit or licence from us and planning permission from the local authority to operate (and we may be contacted by the local authority as a consultee), but each can be applied for and issued without the other and obtaining one does not necessarily mean the other will also be issued or granted, except for species licencing where planning permission must be granted prior to applying for a licence.

Permitting’s role

Environmental permitting (EPR) including flood risk activity permits (FRAP)

Our permitting decisions look at the design and operation of the processes, to prevent pollution and minimise impacts on the environment and human health.

Our flood risk activity permitting decisions must also manage flood risk and drainage impacts in addition to the above.

Forestry applications

Our forestry licencing and determination decisions are required to protect the environment and ensure that the forest resource in Wales is managed sustainably and in line with the principles of the UK Forestry Standard.

Water resources

Our water resources licensing decisions are required to have regards to lawful users of water, protected rights and the environment. 

Marine licensing

Our marine licensing decisions are required to have regard to the need to protect the environment, human health and prevent interference with legitimate uses of the sea. 

Species licensing

For applications received under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, we must consider purpose, e.g. imperative reasons of over-riding public interest (IROPI), if there are any satisfactory alternatives; and if the action were to be authorised, it will not be detrimental to the maintenance of the population of the species concerned at a favourable conservation status in their natural range.

For applications received under other legislation that we licence e.g. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), we must make sure that the purpose meets the specified criteria within the relevant legislation and if the action were to be authorised it will not have a detrimental impact on the population status of the species concerned.

For applications under the Invasive Alien Species Order 2019 we must make sure that the purpose meets the specified criteria within the relevant legislation.

Our regulatory remit

We often receive comments on matters that are not within our legal remit. This means we cannot lawfully allow those comments to influence our decision. Below are examples of assessments which are either within or not within our legal remit. All of our teams consider potential impact on the environment, habitats and designated sites e.g. Sites of Special Scientific Interest in relation to an application. However, please note that the following examples may not be relevant to all teams, regimes or applications.

Environmental permitting (EPR) Including EPR flood risk (FRAP)

Within our remit:

  • The proposed operator’s competency to meet permit conditions
  • Any proposed emission limits to air, land, and water
  • Potential impacts on health and the local environment
  • General operational management of the proposed facility
  • Fire prevention and mitigation plans
  • Handling and storing of any waste and raw materials
  • Efficient use of any raw materials, water and energy
  • Control of any odour, noise, dust, litter and pests
  • Any relevant local factors that you believe the applicant has not considered in the application
  • Monitoring process, agreed procedures and standards
  • Flood risk – works which are in, over or under and within the floodplain of a main river, including those which are likely to damage riverbanks, damage/alter river control works, divert or obstruct flood waters which would increase flooding elsewhere and any works which would interfere with our access to main rivers to operate/maintain flood alleviation schemes.
  • Flood risk - rights of access

Not within our remit:

  • The location of the site (local planning authorities' remit)
  • Traffic (local planning authorities' remit)
  • Visual impact (local planning authorities' remit)
  • Land use (local planning authorities' remit)
  • Operational hours government policy, regardless of whether it's UK Government or Welsh Government (local planning authorities' remit)
  • Alternative locations for the site
  • Deciding whether the applicant must also undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment (local planning authorities' remit)
  • For EPR applications – how much raw material is used and where it comes from
  • For EPR applications - access to the site (local planning authorities remit)
  • For FRAP applications - access and permissions to use the site (including access over third party land outside the application site)
  • For FRAP applications - achieving environmental enhancements
  • For FRAP applications - undertaking work on rivers on behalf of 3rd parties e.g. riparian owners responsibility
  • For FRAP applications – future responsibility/maintenance of the approved activity e.g. outfall structure

Water resources

Within our remit:

  • Potential impact on the environment
  • Rights of access (for abstraction licences)
  • Potential effects on the protected rights of existing abstraction licence holders
  • Potential effects on other lawful water users
  • The applicant’s reasonable requirement for water and its efficient use

Not within our remit:

  • Visual or noise impact
  • Pipeline routes or turbine houses
  • Requirement for other permissions

Marine licensing

Within our remit:

  • The location of the site
  • Potential impact on human health
  • Potential impact on the environment
  • Potential for interference with legitimate uses of the sea
  • Requirement for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

Not within our remit:

  • Terrestrial land use (local planning authorities' remit)
  • Traffic (local planning authorities' remit unless for EIA applications)

Species licensing

Within our remit:

  • The location of the site
  • Potential impact on the environment
  • Skills and qualifications of applicants
  • Purpose
  • Satisfactory alternative
  • Impact on favourable conservation status / population status
  • Timing of when works are being undertaken for specific species
  • Appropriate mitigation for specific species

Not within our remit:

  • Certain activities under the Badger Act e.g. damage to land and property
  • Schedule 4 Bird registration
  • Certain activities under the Deer Act
  • The Zoo Licencing Act 1981
  • Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976
  • Precautionary applications – just in case scenario
  • Domestic animals and stock

Forestry permitting

Felling licences and forest management plans

Within our remit:

  • Granting a licence to fell growing trees not covered under a felling exemption
  • The refusal of an application that is not in the interest of good forestry
  • Consider potential impact on the environment

Not within our remit:

  • To add conditions to licences that are not related to restocking or maintenance of those restocked trees
  • To grant a licence to fell trees for development
  • To provide a decision on whether you meet the criteria for tree felling exemptions

Environmental Impact Assessments for forestry

Within our remit:

  • Give our opinion on a forestry project (afforestation; deforestation, forest road works; and forest quarry works).
  • Consider potential impact on the environment

Not within our remit:

  • Any EIAs that are not a forestry project

How consultation fits in to our decision-making process

We consult at specific steps and for set timeframes during our regulatory decision-making process to give people and organisations an opportunity to comment.

Our process

  1. We receive an application.

  2. We carry out completeness checks of the application to decide if enough information and the correct fee have been provided (where applicable). We call this step ‘duly making or validation’. We do not undertake any technical assessment of the application at this stage. An application will only proceed to consultation once it has been duly made or validated.

  3. The application is publicised:
    • EPR applications will be advertised on our website under permit applications, consultations and decisions for 20 working days.
    • EPR FRAP applications will only be advertised when it is considered that the proposals are ‘likely to have a significant adverse effect on the environment’
    • Water resources applications will be advertised on our website under permit applications, consultations and decisions for 20 working days. We are also legally required by the Water Resources Act to publish a notice in a local newspaper.
    • Marine licensing applications will be advertised on our website under permit applications, consultations and decisions for 28 calendar days, or for 42 calendar days for an Environmental Impact Assessment. We also require the applicant to place a notice in an appropriate publication e.g. newspaper.
    • Forestry applications, all application documents are made available on the forestry public register for 28 calendar days for comment (except any for over 50% larch or thinning only applications).
    • For applications we consider to be of high public interest we consult via our consultation hub within the same time frames listed above.
  1. Technical assessment and determination takes place which may run in parallel with the consultation period. We consider all relevant comments received during the consultation stage in our decision-making process. We can ask for more information from the applicant following comments or questions we receive during a consultation if they are relevant to our determination.

  2. For some applications we advertise a ‘minded to’ decision on our website for 20 working days. This is usually only for applications involving the Industrial Emissions Directive or high public interest species licensing.

  3. We make our final decision. The outcome of our determination is listed on our website (except for species licensing). All documents relating to the application and determination are available via our online public register.

How we manage applications of high public interest

For some applications if we consider there is, or is likely to be, a high degree of public interest we may decide it’s appropriate to undertake additional communication or engagement to ensure everyone has a fair chance to comment. We call these applications high public interest.

An application can be classed as high public interest at any stage during our decision-making process. We always try to make this decision as early on as possible, based on feedback we receive, however, this may be during pre-application discussions, once an application arrives, or at any other stage during our decision-making process.

Additional communication and engagement options for high public interest applications

We choose options that will be most appropriate for the specific application and achieve value for money; a principle we must follow as a public service organisation funded by the Welsh Government.

We decide which, if any, communication and engagement options are appropriate on a case-by-case basis, for example increased community engagement. Please note that our engagement sessions are delivered virtually, via bookable Microsoft Teams meeting. We may consider alternatives to this as appropriate. Below are examples of some of the more common options we may consider (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Extending the consultation beyond standard timeframes
  • Wider advertising, e.g. press releases
  • Consultation of the draft decision and permit (should we decide to issue)
  • Publication of updated information and progress on our website, available on our statements pages
  • Increased coverage on our social media platforms
  • Engagement with political representatives or community leaders

How you can respond to a consultation

Responses to a consultation for a high public interest application can be submitted via the online consultation hub.

For all other consultations or if you are unable to access the consultation hub, you can send us your comments to the following email or postal address:

Please include the application reference, applicant name and site address in the subject matter so we can easily identify which application your comments relate to and ensure they are passed to the correct team. Please note that all comments must be received before the consultation period ends.

We do not respond individually in detail to the comments made. We do not consider any comments made on our social media platforms to be formal consultation responses. Only comments received via the methods set out above will be acknowledged and considered.

Others we consult with

We may engage with other organisations and expert bodies, e.g. Local Authorities, Public Health Wales etc, to seek their views on protecting human health and the environment and work with them to address public concerns, taking their expert advice into account when making our decision.

How we publicise our final decisions

Environmental permitting regulations, marine licensing and high public interest species licensing applications

We produce a decision document which contains details of our decision-making process and how we’ve taken all relevant comments we’ve received into account.  This is where you can look to see how your comments have been considered. Please note: If we receive numerous comments on the same issue, we may group these together in the decision document as one summary (per issue). However, each individual consultation response will be saved on our system.  We inform customers of our permit and licence decisions on our website and all documents relating to the decision are made available via our online public register other than for Species Licensing decisions which will be available on our permit applications, consultations and decisions webpages.

Flood risk activity permit applications

Our decision-making process is recorded in a FRAP consultation spreadsheet which is available to view upon request. 

Water resources applications

We record our decision in a determination report which is available to view upon request. For water resources applications which are deemed to be high public interest or are refused we also produce a decision statement which we place on our website.

Forestry applications

Issued felling licences can be seen on the map of data about the natural environment if you would like to see details of the felling and our decision please email quoting the reference number.

Our decision in relation to forestry Environmental Impact Assessments can be found on our forestry public register if you would like to see details of our decision please email quoting the reference number.

How we consult when developing new standard rule permits

We offer standard rule permits for a range of EPR activities. These contain conditions including strict location criteria and activities must also be carried out in line with the generic risk assessment for the given activity.

We consult on all new draft standard rule permits and their corresponding risk assessments prior to them being finalised and published on our website – they can then be applied for once published.

  1. We identify organisations who may be interested in the standard rule permit e.g. industry groups & unions.
  2. We discuss the work with them and develop initial draft standard rule permit and risk assessment of the activity.
  3. Next, we share the draft documents on our website for consultation where we invite comments from the public and any interested organisations. The length of the consultation period may vary depending on the complexity and level of interest in that particular standard rule permits. We let people know about the consultation via our website and our social media platforms and occasionally directly by email.
  4. We then review the consultation responses, finalise the documents and get any supporting guidance ready to be published with the standard rule permit and risk assessment.
  5. Finally, we publish the standard rule permit and its risk assessment on our website. The standard rule permit is now ‘live’ and can be applied for.

We take a similar approach when we want to amend or revoke a standard rule permit but the consultation period is usually only for a maximum of 28 days and we write to operators and other organisations or individuals that hold permits that will be affected by the proposed change.

How we follow General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) with consultation responses

When we receive a personal response from an individual, it is saved on our system but not automatically available on our online public register. We do this to protect the personal information of the individual making the representation.

The content of the response can be made available via an official request for information. Should this happen, we would ensure all personal information, such as name and address, is redacted prior to providing the information in the response to the request.

Very rarely, we may be required to pass your data to third parties, for example to Welsh Government (Planning and Environment Decisions Wales) if one of our decisions is appealed.

You can read more about how we handle data in compliance with GDPR in our privacy notice


We carry out the above in line with our regulatory principles to prevent pollution and minimise impacts on the environment and human health, ensuring the natural resources of Wales are sustainably maintained, enhanced and used, now and in the future whilst providing value for money as a public service organisation funded by the Welsh Government.

If you would like to provide any feedback, comments, suggestions or ideas after reading this document, these can be submitted to:

Other places in Permit applications, consultations and decisions

Explore more

Last updated