Environmental appeals

Last updated: 13 June 2018

You have the right to appeal if you've been affected by a decision made by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) or Scottish Water.

Appeals can cover:

  • pollution prevention and control
  • the water environment, like rivers or lochs
  • waste management, including landfills and rubbish collection
  • radioactive substances
  • environmental impact assessments, including changes made to farms or farm land
  • private water supplies, such as a change to a water supply that affects your home or business

How to appeal

The appeals process has strict deadlines. The time you have to make an appeal depends on the legislation your appeal relates to. Check the legislation to find out what your deadline is.

Download the Environmental Appeal form and guidance notes to appeal to the Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA).

In the form you should set out in full:

  • the subject of your appeal
  • the authority you're appealing against
  • the reasons for your appeal – you need to write a statement that explains your appeal

Your appeal submission must include the following documents:

  • your original application (if applicable)
  • the authority's decision letter or notice (if applicable)
  • all documents, materials and evidence you wish to rely on
  • any letters or emails between you and the authority
  • your appeal, if you're appealing by post

You'll also need to submit any other documents that directly support your appeal, for example your appeal statement.

There's no cost for sending an appeal, but you'll be responsible for your own expenses.

Legislation

You'll also need to refer to the legislation that relates to your appeal. For example, if you want to make an appeal that relates to a decision about sewerage, you could refer to the Sewerage (Scotland) Act 1968.

Legislation helps the DPEA make a decision about your appeal. You're more likely to succeed if you can show that current legislation supports your appeal.

Legislation covering SEPA or Scottish Water decisions includes:

Pollution prevention and control

Waste management

Water

Contaminated land

Greenhouse gas emissions

Some of this legislation will contain a list of documents you must submit as part of an appeal. Some will also specify whether copies of the documents you submit should be sent to the authority you're appealing against. Check the legislation that applies to your appeal to make sure you comply with any requirements.

Visit the SEPA website for more information on environmental legislation and regulations.

The appeals process

Once you make an appeal, the Scottish Government will choose a reporter to decide it.

The planning authority must give its response to your appeal within 21 days. You'll then have a further 14 days to comment on any new information submitted by the authority.

The appeals process has a strict timetable with deadlines for each stage. Make sure everything's sent on time. If you send information after the deadline, it'll be sent back to you and may not be considered.

The reporter will consider your submissions along with SEPA or Scottish Water's response and any representations made by any other party.

If the reporter considers that a decision can be made based on this information and that no site inspection is required, they'll aim to issue a decision within 8 weeks of receiving the appeal.

The reporter may need to get more information to reach a decision. If they do, they might ask for one or all of the following:

  • an inspection of the site
  • further written submissions
  • a hearing session (a structured meeting)
  • an inquiry session (a more formal event similar to a court case)

Inspection of the site

A site inspection allows a reporter to view the site and understand the issues that have been raised.

The reporter decides if a site inspection will be accompanied or unaccompanied. If it's accompanied, the authority and person making the appeal will be invited to attend. Anyone else, like those who have made representations about the appeal, will be told about the arrangements and invited to the site inspection.

The reporter can't discuss the merits of the appeal.

If the reporter chooses an unaccompanied visit, they will inspect the site alone.

If the reporter thinks a decision can be made based on submissions and a site inspection, they will aim to issue a decision within 12 weeks of receiving the appeal.

Further written submissions

If the reporter needs further written submissions they will request it from the person they think will be most suitable to provide it.

If this happens the reporter will aim to issue a decision within 20 weeks of receiving the appeal.

Hearing or public local inquiry

The reporter may decide that the information they need would be best presented at a hearing or inquiry session.

The difference between a hearing session and an inquiry session is:

  • a hearing session is a structured discussion led by the reporter
  • an inquiry session is more like a court case - witnesses give evidence in front of the reporter

The reporter will decide if a hearing or inquiry session is required. If it is, they will aim to issue the decision on the appeal within 26 weeks (if it's a hearing) or 32 weeks (if it's an inquiry session).

Claiming expenses

You can submit an expenses claim against a person or organisation if you think they have acted unreasonably and caused you unnecessary expense. This can be in the form of a written statement sent by an email or letter.

After getting an expenses claim, the person or organisation who the claim is made against (the 'opposing party') will be given 14 days to provide any comments.

The reporter will decide if they have acted unreasonably and will decide any costs that should be paid to cover these expenses.

The expenses claim is separate to the appeal. If you get awarded expenses this doesn't necessarily mean your appeal will be successful too.

You can find more information on expenses in this planning circular

If you want to withdraw your appeal

You must contact the Scottish Government if you want to withdraw your appeal.

You can do this any time before the reporter makes a decision.

You must contact the Scottish Government if you want to withdraw your appeal, or put in a request to the reporter to apply a hold on the appeal (known as a 'SIST').

Email the Scottish Government's Division of Planning and Environmental Appeals (DPEA) at DPEA@gov.scot or write to them at:

Planning and Environmental Appeals Division
4 The Courtyard
Callendar Business Park
Falkirk
FK1 1XR

The decision

After taking all the evidence into account, the reporter will either:

  • support the original decision
  • overturn the decision
  • issue a decision (if the authority originally failed to give one)

You'll get a decision notice sent to you once the reporter has made a decision.

This will include the terms of the decision and the reasons for it.

How to challenge a reporter's decision

You can challenge the reporter's decision at the Court of Session

You can't appeal the decision because you disagree with it, but you can challenge the decision if you think there was important evidence that the reporter misunderstood or didn't take into account.

If you want to challenge a reporter's decision:

  • the appeal to the Court of Session must be submitted within 42 days (6 weeks) of the date of the decision
  • you may have to cover the legal costs and any expenses should the challenge fail
  • anyone with sufficient interest can submit a challenge

If you're unsure about any part of this process, you should get advice from a lawyer

Making a complaint

If you want to make a complaint about an appeal, you can find more information on how to do this in the Planning and Environmental Appeals Division's complaints policy

You can also find out about recent Planning and Environmental Appeals Division related decisions made by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.