Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Construction sites and construction legislation

Friday, June 1, 2018

Managing the environment: Construction legislation explained

Not only are construction sites under huge scrutiny when it comes to health and safety procedures and policy, but as new legislation is introduced, environmental considerations and processes are becoming of equal importance.

Here we explain, in simple terms, the environmental legislation construction companies in Northern Ireland and Scotland need to be aware of and the benefits implementing such legislation can bring:


The prevention of surface water and groundwater pollution from construction sites is probably the biggest issue facing construction companies at the moment.

It is really important that you follow the correct procedures to avoid water pollution (which includes discharges of silty water and of water containing pollutants including concrete and grout, oil, and hydraulic fluid) occurring on your site, not just because the cost of water pollution is high, but because the benefits of effective water management are plentiful.

With an effective water management process in place, you can ensure that your build will be completed on time by avoiding any hold ups that are inevitably caused by water pollution, while minimising your running costs.

In Scotland, in terms of the new regulation, it now requires that companies operating on sites over four hectares (or one hectare on steep ground) apply for a Licence which includes specific conditions relating to waste water that must be met. For example, the site runoff needs to be controlled by Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS). You can obtain authorisation for your activity from SEPA directly and more information on permits and licenses can be found here. In Northern Ireland SuDS can be a valuable tool to prevent silty runoff entering nearby watercourses, and although not a requirement will help your site management.


On all construction sites, a site waste management plan is always advisable. Having one in place will help you reduce waste, as well as plan for the segregation of key materials and storage. If this plan is adhered to then there is a much greater chance of your project being completed on time, as there will be a reduced need for NIEA or SEPA representatives coming to site to spot check your processes!


Local authorities can become involved in your construction site if it starts to create a nuisance for local residents or businesses. This includes, but is not limited to, noise, dust, smoke, vehicle movements and artificial lighting.

Join the “Considerate Constructors Scheme”, which ensures local residents and businesses are able to get in touch with you directly with any issues, helping you deal with them directly and swiftly, before any external involvement - which can inevitably cause delays.

Contaminated land

Completing a site survey should identify the risk of contaminated land on a site. However, if there is evidence of contamination, such as an oily sheen on water or odours, then it is important that work stops immediately while an investigation is carried out. Avoid any delays by completing the site survey!

Nature conservation

You will need to be aware of times of the year when construction activities can cause damage to wildlife populations. For example, you will need to avoid cutting down scrub and trees during the bird nesting season or working in or near water during fish spawning and hatching. This could cause major issues and lead to the shutting down of your construction site, so it is worth doing your research well ahead of any planned activity!

There is a lot to consider when it comes to implementing the correct environmental legislation across a construction site, but the benefits far outweigh the time it takes to implement them. By following these simple guidelines, you will be in a much better position to ensure a safe and secure working environment for you, your employees, the local community and the surrounding wildlife, while ensuring your project is completed on time, to a high standard, with the reputation of your company well and truly intact.

Check your company’s environmental compliance by accessing our free, anonymous self-assessment tool

Environmental News Blog

NetRegs on NetRegs on youTube

View our latest videos & subscribe to our channel.

NetRegs Update Newsletter

Free monthly email newsletter with environmental updates for Northern Ireland and Scotland

Sign up for free today!


NIEA - Apply online

SEPA - Application forms