Construction sites; April 2008 - compulsory site waste management plans

United Kingdom

Under regulations put forward by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (‘DEFRA’) this year, site waste management plans (‘SWMPs’) will become a compulsory part of the project planning and implementation stage of construction projects from April 2008.

On 2nd April 2007, DEFRA issued a consultation entitled Consultation on Site Waste Management Plans for the construction industry (‘the Consultation’). This consultation closed on 9th July 2007. The criticism which the Consultation sought to address relates to unsustainable waste management arising from construction. Obviously the desire is to see less landfill and more reuse, recovery and recycling of construction waste. Indeed, at the bigger sites the use of related technology is already on the rise. The intention is to make SWMPs a part of the routine planning and execution of construction and demolition projects.

Implementation and application in 2008

The Consultation included a set of draft regulations called the Site Waste Management Plans Regulations 2008 (the "Regulations"), which DEFRA proposed would require a SWMP for works involving construction, demolition or excavation above a particular value (see below). The Regulations will be brought into effect pursuant to enabling powers set out in the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005.

The first draft of the Regulations is to be slightly amended and the amended version should be available very soon (we understand sometime in the week commencing 18th February 2008). The intent is that the Regulations, first having been laid before Parliament, will come into force on 6th April 2008.

Importantly, according to DEFRA, there will be what equates to an amnesty for certain construction projects, namely those where construction work is planned before 6th April 2008 and which commences before 1st July 2008. For these works a Site Waste Management Plan will not be required. Provided the other criteria apply, construction planned after 6th April 2008 (and whether started before or after 1st July 2008) a SWMP will be required.

The Consultation and the Regulations only relate to England. This is a devolved issue and thus the rest of the UK is not affected by these Regulations. Having said this, some organisations which work across the UK and have strong environment/CSR/Sustainability principles may feel the need to apply the spirit of the Regulations at sites in the UK outside England.

The Regulations: an overview

Since the Consultation, the Regulations are to remain in substantially in the same form but there are a few proposed amendments. First, the Regulations will only catch projects over a certain value. This will now be £300,000. Second, the maximum penalty for non-compliance will now be £50,000 but the usual custodial penalties usually found in environment legislation, will not apply. Third, reporting requirements will be reduced from what was originally proposed, or altogether removed.

As it currently stands the key criteria within the Regulations are as follows:

  • Regulation 2 sets out the categories of work that would require a SWMP to be put in place. The definition of construction work involved is taken from the Construction Design and Management Regulations 1994.
  • Regulation 3 sets out the minimum value for a project requiring a SWMP (to be £300,000).
  • Regulation 4 sets out the required content of a SWMP i.e. information and records that it should include.
  • Regulations 6-9 set out requirements for updating and making SWMPs available.
  • Offences and penalties for failing to implement and keep a SWMP are set out in Regulations 14 and 16.