NRW’s regulatory approach

In line with the principles of the sustainable management of natural resources (SMNR), we adopt a broad definition of regulation that embraces many types of interventions including formal regulation, voluntary initiatives, economic and market-based mechanisms, through to information and communications-based approaches.

Some incidents or breaches of regulatory requirements cause, or have the potential to cause, serious environmental damage. Others may interfere with people's enjoyment or rights, or our ability to carry out our activities.

Our first response will be to prevent harm to people and the environment from occurring or continuing. Any enforcement action we take will be proportionate to the risks posed to people and the environment. We also consider the seriousness of the breach of the law and its impact on legitimate businesses.

Covid 19 pandemic

Our regulatory work is important in protecting the environment, human health and wellbeing. While restrictions were put in place in 2020 to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic NRW put measures in place to maintain our service as far as possible, while ensuring that our staff and others were kept safe and well. Such measures included prioritising site visits to collect data during significant environmental incidents and responded to issues of the highest environmental and public risk. We developed new ways of working to continue compliance assessments, including phone calls, focused visits to priority sites and using a range of alternative methods for gathering intelligence. We also published 19 temporary regulatory decisions to help respond with a range of matters arising.

EU exit

We worked with the Welsh Government, partner agencies and customers to support the UK exit from the European Union, to identify and manage the risks, impacts and opportunities that could occur. Our regulatory representatives supported multi-agency responses to operational, policy and regulatory issues as they developed, providing advice and guidance. We continue to support with Welsh Government and UK Government legislative change and associated consultations with implications for our resources. This provides opportunities for us to use a more collaborative approach in the way we deliver advice, support, incentivisation and regulation to deliver the sustainable management of natural resources.

Major incidents

2020 was a significant year for responding to and recovering from major and critical incidents. These included supporting the national and local response to the pandemic at the same time as responding to the impacts of back to back storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge which arrived on the back of a very wet winter. Across the network of 231 NRW river gauging stations in Wales, 51 (or 22%) recorded the highest ever levels during Storm Dennis.

In August 2020, we were involved in responding to the Llangennech freight train derailment which resulted in the 350,000litres of diesel spilling into a marine environment of international environmental importance, causing major concern for the surrounding waterways and wildlife. This was most significant marine pollution NRW has responded to since the Sea Empress in 1996.

Summary of our regulated activities in 2020

The data in this report covers the period 1 January to 31 December 2020. The data is taken from our incident, compliance, permitting and enforcement systems. These are called the Wales Incident Recording System (WIRS), the Compliance Assessment Reporting System (CARS), the Permitting and Licencing System (PALS) and the Contravention Offence Legal Information Notification System (COLINS). This report focuses on industry and waste regulation as there was no agricultural data available for 2020.

At 31 December 2020:

  • We received 8,126 incident reports during 2020. This represents an increase of nine per cent (703 reports) from the same period in 2019.
  • Our incident attendance rate in 2020 was 21%. This is down 8% on 2019, due to the restrictions put in place by the Welsh Government to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent impacts on our working practices.
  • There were 10,447 effective EPR permits in force in Wales issued by us.
  • We completed 1845 compliance assessment reports for 264 permitted waste sites, 181 industry regulated sites, 393 water quality sites and 41 water abstractions.
  • There were more than 40,000 waste and agricultural exemptions registered in Wales at 9789 different locations.
  • There were 11,112 active waste carriers, broker and dealers registered with us.
  • Nearly 30,000 people held a fishing licence in Wales. There was a growth of 18% in junior licences, on top of a three per cent year on year increase in the number of adult licences sold.
  • We created 604 new enforcement cases, comprising 620 offenders and 936 separate enforcement charges. We took enforcement action against 241 companies and 379 individuals. By the end of 2020 we had 278 cases still listed as “legal in progress”, primarily due to them being either still under investigation backlogs in court, or due to the complexity of case
  • As a result of relevant environmental offences being committed, NRW were offered three enforcement undertakings. At the end of 2020 one was accepted and two were still in progress.

Incident responses

During 2020 we received 8,126 incident reports. This represents a nine per cent increase (703 reports) compared to 2019. We classified 76% as low level and 22% as high level. The remaining reports were classified as duplicates, not in remit, complaints and events. Our How to report an incident web page was viewed 17,216 times during the year, an increase of 20% on the previous year.

There were 3,689 incidents reported relating to water. These included water pollution, reservoirs, abstraction, blockage or alteration to a watercourse and flooding.

There were 1,232 waste-related incidents reported. These included fly-tipping, burning of waste, illegal waste sites and waste carriers.

There were 338 fisheries incidents reported. These included illegal fishing, illegal cockling and fish kills and there were 435 forestry related incidents.

There were 567 incidents reported relating to agriculture. These included water pollutions, land contamination and the burning of waste.

Our incident attendance rate in 2020 was 21%. This is down eight per cent compared to 2019. In addition, we attended 374 high level incidents in 2020. This is 13% less than the 424 incidents we attended in 2019. Our reduced attendance in 2020 is attributed to the restrictions put in place by the Welsh Government to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent impacts on our working practices.

Case study: illegal off-roading and anti-social behaviour

We have introduced tighter security measures at NRW sites across Mid Wales following a sharp increase in illegal off-roading and anti-social behaviour during lockdown.

Complaints of illegal off-roading and anti-social behaviour have increased dramatically since lockdown measures were first implemented in Wales in March this year.

As restrictions began to ease over the summer, significant increases in visitors to NRW sites led to more reports of illegal camping, littering, forest fires and off-roading activity from motorcycles and 4x4s, which damage outdoor spaces and put other forest users at risk.

Working in partnership with the police, local authorities and security companies, we put in place measures at the most affected sites across the NRW estate to help curb the number of people taking part in any illegal activity.

Permits issued, refused and withdrawn

We are responsible for more than 40 legislative regimes ranging from large industrial processes to protected sites and species. This includes industrial, waste and water permitted sites, wildlife, and marine licences across Wales.

We are responsible for checking compliance, providing advice and guidance, and taking protective responses including issuing notices, civil sanctions, or enforcement action.

Environmental Permitting Regulations (EPR) permits

At the end of 2020 there were a total of 10,447 effective EPR permits in force in Wales issued by us.

EPR permits

Total

Directly Associated Activity (DDA)

11

Deployment

132

Installation

288

Sheep dip

998

Mining waste

6

Mobile plant

61

Waste

641

Water discharge activity

6383

 

Water Resources Licences

Total

Full abstraction

1179

Impoundment

718

Transfer abstraction

30

Case study: river pollution

A farmer from Carmarthenshire has been sentenced for persistently polluting a river with farm effluent.

David Benjamin Huw Marks, of Cwrt Farm, Pentrecwrt, pleaded guilty to offences under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2016 when he appeared before court on 11 September 2020. He was sentenced on Thursday 15 October 2020 at Llanelli Magistrates’ Courts and ordered to pay a total of £12,497.10 - a £6,000 fine, £6,327.10 costs, and £170 victim surcharge.

Mr Marks had failed to empty a silage tank regularly causing the tank to overflow and drain into the Afon Gwr Fach on three separate occasions between December 2017 and December 2018 (18 December 2017, 1 February 2018, and 11 December 2018).

Sewage fungus was found along the 0.75 km length of the Afon Gwr Fach from Cwrt Farm to the confluence of the Teifi. The fungus had grown as a result of silage effluent running into the river.

The persistent pollution in the Afon Gwr Fach would have been poisonous or could have injured fish, spawning areas, and food of fish.

It was evident that the previous advice and warnings or advice given by NRW officers to Mr Marks had not been listened to by the owners of the farm who allowed the pollution of the watercourse continue.

Forestry

Act/

Regulation

Total applications received

Issued

Refused

Withdrawn

Forestry Act 1967

509

467

13

29

Environmental Impact Assessment (Forestry) (England and Wales) Regulations 1999

42

39

0

3

Total

551

506

13

32

Species licensing

Act/Regulation

Received

Issued

Amended

Rejected

Refused

Withdrawn

Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017

784 - includes amendment applications to licences issued before 1 January 2020

736

212

15

0

36

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

923

892

84

7

15

30

Badgers Act 1992

21

19

6

0

0

2

Deer Act 1991

1

1

 0

0

0

0

Seal Act 1970

0

0

 0

0

0

0

 

Exemptions from Environmental Permitting Regulations 2016

Some activities are regulated activities but are considered to pose a reduced risk to the environment or human health. A range of exemptions allow operators to carry out these activities without an environmental permit, where certain conditions are met. Exemptions will normally impose limits on the scale or type of activity that can take place.

At the end of 2020, there were more than 40,000 waste and agricultural exemptions registered in Wales at 9,789 different locations

Waste carriers, brokers and dealer applications

If someone transports waste as part of their business, they will need to be registered as a waste carrier. If they arrange for waste from other businesses or organisations to be transported, disposed of, or recovered, they need to register as a waste broker. If someone buys and sells waste, or uses an agent to do so, they need to register as a waste dealer.

In 2020 we received 2,672 waste carrier, broker and dealer applications. This included 592 waste carrier registration renewals and 1,259 new applications.

At the end of 2020 there were 11,112 waste carriers, brokers and dealers registered with us.

Case study: waste offences

A Conwy-based waste operator who advertised his services on Facebook has been given a suspended prison sentence after admitting five waste offences at Caernarfon Magistrates Court.

Ryan Green, who operated a business under the name Ultimate Waste Removal, pleaded guilty to four cases of fly-tipping household waste at sites across North Wales and the illegal storage of mixed waste at Peel Street, Abergele.

He was sentenced to 52 weeks imprisonment suspended for 18 months.

An application was also made for compensation for the full clean-up costs which included asbestos, and this was awarded in the sum of £4,000 payable at a rate of £100 per month.

In August 2019 NRW officers, along with officers from Conwy Council, visited a warehouse and adjoining land at Peel Street Business Centre, Abergele.

Officers found multiple deposits of waste including bin bags, mattresses, furniture, food packaging, bed frames, construction and demolition waste, cardboard boxes, garden waste and toys on the site and rats were seen amongst the waste.

Mr Green had rented the warehouse in July 2019 for the purpose of refurbishing and selling second-hand furniture.

Our officers sorted through the waste to try and identify addresses and persons linked to the waste. Several addresses were located, and contact was made with the residents.

Each resident who responded to us indicated that they had hired Ultimate Waste Disposal to get rid of their waste after seeing an advert on Facebook. Customers paid between £56 and £500 for waste removal services.

Gwynedd and Denbighshire Councils were investigating four separate fly-tipping incidents. Addresses found in the fly-tipped waste were investigated and the information led back to Ultimate Waste Removals.

The incident was jointly investigated by enforcement officers from NRW, Gwynedd, Conwy, and Denbighshire Councils.

Compliance assessments

Waste and industry regulation

By the end of 2020 we completed 828 compliance assessment reports (CAR) for a total of 264 permitted waste sites and 181 industry regulated sites in Wales.

Assessment type

Waste

Industry regulation

Report/Data Review

91

267

Site Inspection

225

53

Unknown

19

12

Check monitoring / sampling

17

55

Audit

50

39

Totals

402

426

Permits with a CAR form

264

181

 

Breach category

Waste

Industry regulation

A - Assessed, and no evidence of non-compliance.

163

204

C2 - A non-compliance which could have a significant environmental effect

9

12

C3 - A non-compliance which could have a minor environmental effect

71

90

C4 - A non-compliance which has no potential environmental effect

66

38

NULL

33

45

O - Ongoing non-compliance - not scored

4

4

X - Action only

56

33

Total

402

426

Water abstraction and water quality

By the end of 2020 we completed 1017 compliance assessment reports (CAR) for water quality and water abstraction at 434 regulated sites in Wales.

Breach category

Water abstraction

Water quality

A - Assessed, and no evidence of non-compliance

38

125

C2 - A non-compliance which could have a significant environmental effect

2

14

C3 - A non-compliance which could have a minor environmental effect

20

289

C4 - A non-compliance which has no potential environmental effect

7

474

X - Action only

3

45

Permits with a CAR form

41

393

Agriculture

NRW is undertaking an exercise to improve the accessibility and transparency of data relating to our regulatory performance on agricultural matters. This work has not concluded in time to publish our agricultural compliance and monitoring effort for the period 1st January to 31st December 2020.

Our 2020 Annual Regulation Report will be updated to include these data as soon as reasonably practicable.

Radioactive substances regulation

NRW is the environmental regulator for both the nuclear and non-nuclear sectors in Wales. There are also other regulators who carry out compliance work in these sectors including the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

Nuclear

There are two nuclear licensed sites in Wales: Wylfa and Trawsfynydd.  Although no longer generating power, there is ongoing work required to decommission these sites. Together with the Environment Agency, we carry out compliance work to ensure operators are meeting their environmental obligations.  In 2020, we completed compliance work at each site using remote inspection methods due to Covid-19 restrictions.  We maintained regular contact with site operators and we continued to undertake other routine compliance work by correspondence. 

Non-nuclear

There are currently around 135 permits across Wales controlling the use of radioactive substances. Uses range from medical treatment and research to measurement and testing in industrial settings. These regulated radioactive substances activities are termed “non-nuclear” as they are not on nuclear licensed sites.

Industry and waste regulation teams across Wales undertake compliance audits and inspections at facilities using, holding, or disposing radioactive substances which fall under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016. Sites are inspected on a risk-based frequency depending on the type of operation. 

Covid-19 restrictions heavily impacted our planned compliance work; however, we delivered an average of 40% of our planned inspections across Wales in 2020. This figure varied depending on local priorities. In some cases, we successfully used remote inspection methods or a hybrid approach where documentation was audited remotely prior to a site visit.  Feedback from operators on these methods has been generally positive and we learned that remote compliance work requires extra preparation to be successful.

To support the work of the medical sector during the pandemic, we made regulatory decisions to allow some flexibility in compliance with permit limits, provided that the risks to the environment and health were low. We also monitored the impact associated with the end of the EU exit transition period on industry in Wales.

We contacted all operators during the EU exit transition period and the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure they were meeting their environmental obligations. As restrictions have lifted, we are increasing our site visits in order of priority.

Reservoir safety

As a reservoir undertaker and the enforcement authority for the Reservoirs Act 1975 in Wales, it is our duty to ensure that reservoir safety in Wales is well managed and that reservoir owners and operators comply with the law.

At March 2021 there were 371 large raised reservoirs registered in Wales. NRW manage 35 of these large raised reservoirs, in addition to many smaller ones.

For the period 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2021:

  • All high-risk reservoirs had the required Supervising Engineer appointed.
  • We processed 109 new engineer appointments.
  • We received and processed 359 Supervising Engineers’ statements.
  • We received 44 notifications of undertakers failing to record water levels and other monitoring activities under section 11 of the Reservoirs Act.
  • We received 52 inspection reports for high-risk reservoirs. Two reservoirs were not inspected within the recommended timeframe. One of these is an orphaned dam and the other due to Covid restrictions, however these have since been satisfactorily inspected.
  • There were 77 Measures to be Taken in the Interests of Safety (MITOS).

Read the Reservoir Safety in Wales report for 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2021.

Fly-tipping Action Wales

Throughout 2020, enforcement work through the Living Levels fly-tipping project progressed. Our officers continued to work from home and were able to send letters or notices to suspects or witnesses as incidents were investigated.

Suspect interviews were either dealt with by means of written interview questions or by working in partnership with Newport Council’s enforcement team who had a Covid-compliant interview room which we were able to use. Our officers continued to deploy covert cameras but on a reduced capacity.

Fly-tipping Action Wales were able to continue to remotely host Enforcement Working Groups with local authorities and other partners in Wales.

When restrictions allowed, the team continued to make the most of outdoor filming opportunities to help highlight the enforcement success of the project and raise the profile of fly-tipping on national TV.

Case study: fly-tipping

In June and July 2019, the Fly-tipping Action Wales team carried out authorised covert surveillance at a fly-tipping hotspot on the Gwent Levels - land which is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

During the two-month operation the covert camera recorded 4 separate fly tipping incidents.

All 4 incidents were committed by two local builders Michael and Jonny Doran, using their white Ford Transit Tipper. The offenders were recorded depositing building waste including bricks, rubble, and green waste and household waste in black bin bags.

In March 2020 Michael and Jonny Doran pleaded guilty at Cardiff Magistrates Court, Michael Doran was sentenced to a one-year community order equating to 100 hrs of unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay NRW £950 towards costs and a £85 victim surcharge.

Johnny Doran who was already serving a suspended sentence at the time of the offence was sentenced to a fine and ordered to pay a cost contribution, making a total of £1900.

The successful prosecution received a great deal of media coverage both on-line and on television.

Enforcement

The information provided below shows our enforcement outcomes from 1 January 2020 until 31 December 2020. Several cases will have commenced before 2020 but were completed within the year. There will also be cases that were commenced during 2020 that are either still under investigation or in the court system, and these will be recorded in our 2021 report.

Fisheries enforcement

Nearly 30,000 people now hold a fishing licence in Wales, with an increase in sales following the Welsh Government’s easing of coronavirus restrictions on outdoor activity.

There was a growth of 18% in junior licences, on top of a 3% year on year increase in the number of adult licences sold.

During 2020 there were 56 offenders caught committing fisheries offences including rod and line and cockling offences. At the end of 2020, 21 offenders had been dealt with either through the single justice procedure or at magistrate’s court, with fines totalling £2124 and three suspended custodial sentences. The remaining 35 offenders’ cases were still in progress at the end of 2020.

Single Justice Procedure (fisheries)

Number of cases

10

Total fines

£1,354

Average fine

£135.40

Total costs awarded

£1,192

Average costs awarded

£119.20

Case study: fisheries offences (illegal net)

A man was arrested after environmental crime officers from NRW spotted an illegal net in a mid-Wales river.

The officers were conducting a routine patrol of the River Teifi on Thursday 14th May when they came across a net in the water. The officers retrieved the net which contained seven dead sea trout.

Following an investigation carried out in partnership with Dyfed Powys Police, a man was arrested on suspicion of illegal fisheries offences in the Teifi valley.

Despite the Coronavirus lockdown, NRW officers continued to patrol Welsh rivers and people were encouraged to check that fish they buy locally - particularly through social media - are from a legitimate source.

Case study: fisheries offences (cockles)

A man from Llwynhendy in Llanelli has been fined £1,032 for illegal cockling at Burry Inlet Cockle Fishery.

Terry Royston Butchers, aged 64, was summoned to appear at Llanelli Magistrates’ Courts on Friday, 31 January 2020. He admitted taking live cockles from the licensed area twice and failing to comply with instructions from an enforcement officer.

He was fined £240 and ordered to pay NRW legal costs totalling £760, plus £32 court costs.

During a night-time patrol on 29 June, 2019, he was found attempting to get sacks of cockles from his quad bike onto his Transit van.

He gave false details and tried to escape several times. NRW officers stopped him and then positively identified him with assistance from Dyfed-Powys Police.

His cockle gathering equipment was seized and he was ordered to place all live cockles back on the cockle beds.

Civil sanctions

An enforcement undertaking is a type of civil sanction which is available to NRW in relation to several environmental offences as set out in the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act (RES Act) 2008. An enforcement undertaking is a legally binding agreement, which is entered into voluntarily by the offender, and is offered to the regulator when there are reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence has been committed. In order for an enforcement undertaking to become an option for us as an alternative to a prosecution, we must have investigated the offence and have a realistic prospect of a successful prosecution to the criminal standard of proof, which is beyond reasonable doubt.

As a result of relevant environmental offences being committed, we were offered three enforcement undertakings in 2020. At the end of 2020 one was accepted and two were still in progress.

Case study: enforcement undertaking, Alun Griffiths (Contractors) Ltd

On the 13th June 2019, a pollution incident occurred at Boverton Brook, Llantwit Major. The pollution caused the river to be contaminated by suspended solids however the impact was minimal. The investigation found that the incident was foreseeable and that inadequate site mitigation measures had been put in place to prevent any potential pollution occurring.

In this case the offences were committed under Environmental Permitting Regulations 2016 for causing a water discharge activity without an environmental permit and the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975 by discharging matter or effluent that is poisonous or injurious to fish, spawn, spawning areas or food of fish.

Alun Griffiths Contractors made an enforcement undertaking offer to NRW which was accepted, they were recharged a total of £2,062.5.  In addition, they spent a further £14,400 on labour, consultants, sweepers, plant, and silt mitigation in response to the incident and a contribution of £1200 to the South East Rivers Trust.

Contravention Offence Legal Information Notification System (COLINS)

In 2020, NRW created 604 new cases, comprising of 620 offenders, with 936 separate enforcement charges. We took enforcement action against 241 companies and 379 individuals. At the end of 2020, we had 278 cases still listed as “legal in progress”.

The total number of enforcement outcomes was broadly comparable to 2019.

Year

Cases

Offenders

Charges

Companies

Individuals

2020

604

620

936

241

379

2019

638

623

941

258

365


There were 39 cases where we took no further action, 3 cases where we had insufficient evidence to proceed, and 3 cases that were dealt with by the police.

We provided formal advice and guidance in 153 cases. We issued 324 warnings, served 19 enforcement notices that were complied with and issued 7 fixed penalty notices.

We issued 30 formal cautions and prosecuted 68 separate charges, 10 of which were proved in the absence of the defendants.

As a result of our successful prosecutions the court fines totalled £25,097 and we were awarded £33,784 in costs. Both amounts were significantly less than the fines and costs awarded in 2019 caused mainly by the impact of Covid restrictions on the Courts in Wales.

Case study: illegal waste deposits

An investigation began in June 2019 when the waste regulation team received a number of reports of a suspected illegal waste operation.

Reports stated that large volumes of waste were regularly being tipped and burnt at a location, on the border of Brecon Beacons National Park.

An enforcement officer accompanied by a Dyfed-Powys Police Officer who was on secondment to NRW at the time, visited the site. From that visit and follow-up enquiries they found substantial amounts of evidence that led to this successful prosecution.

James Anthony Gunter, aged 32, from Brynamman, admitted the offences in interview, and was charged with operating an illegal waste facility and disposing of waste at that facility in a manner likely to cause pollution to the environment and human health.

Gunter had been operating a household clearance and rubbish removal service in the Ammanford, Neath, Port Talbot, and Llanelli areas.

Gunter was sentenced at Llanelli Magistrates’ Courts on Friday 31 July. He received a 12-month community order with 200 hours unpaid work. He must also pay costs in full of £6,709 and a victim surcharge of £85.

The Code for Crown Prosecutors

The Code for Crown Prosecutors requires us to apply for compensation and ancillary orders, such as anti-social behaviour orders and confiscation orders, in all appropriate cases. Listed below are the ancillary orders that a court may make following a conviction:

Disqualification of directors

No orders have been made by the court

Confiscation of assets - Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Asset Recovery Incentivisation Scheme-ARIS)

Tax Year 19-20

Offender name

Criminal Benefit Figure

Amount available

Paid

Type

Kenneth Davies

£402,937.00

£341.26

Yes

Confiscation

Jeanette Davies

£402,937.00

£402,937.00

Yes

Confiscation

Raymond and Ian Murray

£72,637.57

£30,413.67

Yes

Compensation

Raymond and Ian Murray

£72,637.57

£37,153.71

Yes

Compensation


Anti-social behaviour orders

No orders have been made by the court

Forfeiture of equipment used to commit the offence

No orders have been made by the court

Disqualification from driving

0

Compensation other than PoCA

3

Vehicle seizure

None

Remediation – under the Environmental Permitting Regulations

0

Unpaid work

3

Community orders

2

Curfew

0

Restoration Order under Wildlife and Countryside Act 1980

0

Conditional Discharge

2

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