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2023 update to the General Binding Rules

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  • 2023 updates to the General Binding Rules

The Environment Agency has recently announced two new rules, number 22 and 23, that will impact users of private drainage systems. The new rules come into force on the 2nd of October 2023. The rules only concern new discharges, so do not worry if you have an existing system they will only impact you if when you come to replace your current system you change how and where it discharges.

Rule number 22

“A new discharge shall not use the same outlet as any other discharge if the combined volume of those discharges would exceed the volumetric general binding rules thresholds for groundwater or surface water.”

Firstly, I want to make clear that this does not mean this is banned or that you cannot do it. It simply means you cannot do it under the GBR’s and therefore a B6.5 permit application would need to be made before the work is undertaken.

In English, the rule means you cannot share a discharge (soakaway, drainage field, or discharge point) with another system, say your neighbour’s tank if the combined output of wastewater from the multiple systems exceeds the daily discharge limits set in the General Binding Rules (GBR’s). The limits are 5m3 for discharges to surface water and 2m3 for discharges to the ground. For guidance on how to calculate the volume of wastewater from a system please see the following guidance.

Our interpretation of this rule is that if for instance you currently share, say a discharge pipe to a stream with a neighbours tank and have to replace your system then this rule will not apply, as long as your individual system remains within the GBR’s. The rule only applies if when you come to install a new system or replacement system you decide or need to connect into the same discharge point as another system. It sort of makes sense, the idea is to stop the concentration of pollutants in one place above an acceptable volume without the impact of that being assessed through a permit application.

Rule number 23

“A new discharge shall not be made to a discharge point within 50 metres of any other exempt groundwater activity or water discharge activity.”

Okay, so this one is a bit more complicated and vague. Our interpretation of this is that if for example, you want to install a new Septic Tank and Drainage Field for a new build project, then the Drainage Field cannot be installed within 50m of somebody else’s existing Drainage Field. The same applies to a discharge point to say a river.

Unfortunately, these rules are written by and for Lords and Ladies who live on palatial estates. The average size garden in the UK is 188m2 so 13m by 13m. This would mean for the average working person, who lives in the real world, you would need to consider peoples properties up to 4 houses away on either side. Given that for discharges to ground the majority of people in the country cannot fit either a GBR-compliant system, either new or replacement, in the space available to them, makes it irrelevant, you would need to apply for a B6.5 permit anyway.  

What is unclear is whether a new discharge made within 50m of another discharge would be considered at all, even via a permit application, or whether it is just not allowed. What is also unclear is whether the volumetric element comes into force. For instance, if you are planning to discharge 0.9m3 of wastewater into the ground and the combined volume of any other discharge within 50m is also 0.9m3 then the combined discharge volume would be 1.8m3 which is within the 2m3 allowed under the General Binding Rules for discharges to ground.  

On the 10/10/2023 the Environment Agency confirmed to us the following:

  • A new discharge within 50m of an existing discharge “would be considered and the environmental risk assessed as part of the permit application for the new discharge”
  • In terms of the combined volume of an existing and the new proposed discharge the Environment Agency has stipulated the following  “A permit would be required for the new discharge even if the combined volume would potentially be less than the maximum relevant discharge rate”.
The reason for these new rules is that the Environment Agency does not like not being included in the planning process. It damages their precious ego to not be consulted. So they have brought in these spurious new rules so they can try to interfere at the planning stage. Meanwhile, the General Binding Rules and Permit process for discharges to the ground continue to drive pollution, bizarre but true. 

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On the 1st January 2020, all Septic Tanks that discharge to a Stream, Watercourse or Drainage Ditch will become illegal and will require replacing with a Sewage Treatment Plant. Please see here for more details.

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Expert wastewater treatment engineers who specialise in Septic Tank and Soakaway replacements as well as Sewage Treatment Installations. We are based in the New Forest, Hampshire but operate across the South Coast as well as Wiltshire, Somerset, Devon, Sussex, Surrey, Oxfordshire, and Berkshire.

The Home of Septic tank and private drainage system solutions. 

Based in the New Forest, Hampshire on the border with Dorset and Wiltshire we operate an expert team of off-mains drainage specialists. This encompasses Septic Tank, Soakaway and drainage system problems, installations, blockages, and servicing. In addition, any issues relating to cesspits and sewage treatment plants.

Homeseptic offers high quality, professional advice, repairs and installation for all aspects of effluent cleansing and disposal across the south of England. Whether you’re looking for septic tank installation, sewerage treatment plants or systems, piping or soakaway solutions, Homeseptic employs only the most competent engineers in the drainage and treatment industry and knows exactly which solutions suit each property.

We only install and offer quality systems we believe in, from suppliers we know and trust.

New Forest Philosophy

As we have said Homeseptic is based in the New Forest. A great location in between the cities of Southampton, Salisbury and Bournemouth. We are a group of good friends who grew up together in the area.  Individually we all have grown tired of the way other Drainage firms are run. As a result, this is why we set up Homeseptic. If you want to know more please check out our About Page

We want to actually put the customer first and turn up to do a great job that we can be proud of. Unfortunately, this is not the case in the market, with most companies pressuring their workers to sell unnecessary works on a visit. Due to this, we offer upfront quotations with any variations discussed before we start work.

We are honest hard working professionals, which we hope you will agree with. As a result, it will certainly not turn up in flash sales vehicles and give you a load of chat and then do a terrible job. Our team will come with the job in mind and the aim of giving you the best value we can in order to facilitate a quality installation. 

We cover all of Hampshire, West Sussex, Dorset, Somerset, and Wiltshire. Please get in touch and see what you think.

2023 update to the General Binding Rules
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2023 update to the General Binding Rules
2023 update to the General Binding Rules
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