Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

More general land topics

More general land guidance in alphabetical order

Additional resources


Video Case Study: Soilutions Ltd



The UK government has committed to preserve our biodiversity in several international treaties. This is translated into action at the local level by the Local Area Biodiversity Plans (LABP) which are based on local council areas.

Your local council will have a biodiversity officer who should be the first point of contact for schools or further and higher education establishments wishing to conserve or enhance the biodiversity in their grounds or local community.

What you must do

Rare or protected species are protected wherever they are found. This includes:

  • bats
  • badgers
  • great crested newts
  • otters
  • water voles
  • some plant species
  • wild birds.

You are committing an offence if you disturb or harm protected species or if you damage any structure that they use as shelter unless you have a licence to do this.

The law protects all wild birds and their nests and eggs. You must not disturb birds' nests while they are in use. All species of bats and their roosts are protected whether bats are present or not.

This has implications for grounds management and for the maintenance and refurbishment of buildings.

If work proposed on your site could in any way harm protected species or damage structures used for shelter you should seek advice from your conservation body.

NIEA: Biodiversity

Scottish Natural Heritage

Our Nature Conservation guidance provides further information on protected species and the measures in place to protect them.

Nature conservation

In Scotland, the Nature Conservation Act requires all public bodies and office holders to further the conservation of biodiversity where possible in the course of their work. Schools and further and higher education establishments are considered public bodies for the purposes of the act.

Good practice

BS 42020: Biodiversity. Code of practice for planning and development

This new British Standard 42020 aims to integrate biodiversity into all stages of the planning and development process.

It is of relevance to professionals working in the fields of ecology, land use planning, land management, architecture, civil engineering, landscape architecture, forestry, arboriculture, surveying, building and construction.

BSI: Smart Guide to BS 42020

BSI: BS 42020 Biodiversity. Code of practice for planning and development.


Biodiversity is one of the eight topics that schools address when working towards the Eco-schools awards.


The Eco-schools programme aims to develop:

  • greater understanding of biodiversity
  • benefits in the understanding of scientific and technological concepts
  • experiences of the outdoors in the local community
  • quality of life in the school
  • making choices which benefit biodiversity, eg through resource use
  • national and global links for the school.

A number of organisations can help a school which plans to conserve or enhance biodiversity within the school grounds or the local community. The local council biodiversity officer will be able to provide advice and suggest useful contacts.

Find your local council

Useful links for schools

The Conservation Volunteers: Scotland

The Conservation Volunteers: Northern Ireland

Groundwork Charity (Northern Ireland)

Learning Through Landscapes Charity (Northern Ireland)

Grounds for Learning (Scotland)

The Woodland Trust

Further and higher education

The area of land managed by further and higher education institutions in the UK is roughly equivalent to the area of the Isle of Wight. Sensitive management of this land could have a real impact on the conservation of biodiversity. Establishing a biodiversity policy for the campus means that biodiversity is formally recognised and can be considered in strategic planning and decision making. This can bring a number of benefits including:

  • improved habitats
  • greater awareness of environmental issues across the institution
  • a healthier environment for students and staff
  • improved links and partnerships with the local community.

The Environmental Association of Universities and Colleges (EAUC) has produced a booklet which provides advice on:

  • how to organise biodiversity initiatives within your institution
  • the creation and maintenance of common habitats
  • information regarding current legislation, further guidance, and sources of funding for projects.

EAUC: Biodiversity guide

Useful links for colleges and universities

UK Biodiversity Action Plan

NIEA: Biodiversity

Scottish Natural Heritage

The Woodland Trust

The Conservation Volunteers

Wildlife Trusts

The Business and Biodiversity Resource Centre

Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015

In 2015, the Scottish Parliament passed the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act. This provides a range of new powers for communities to get involved in the ownership of land and other assets, in decision-making, and in securing better outcomes through public services. These powers include community right to buy, asset transfer requests and participation requests.

Among the provisions of the Act:

Part 2: Places Community Planning Partnerships (CPPs) on a statutory footing and imposes duties on them, and statutory community planning partners around the planning and delivery of local outcomes, and the involvement of community bodies at all stages of community planning.

Part 4: Introduces a new provision for community bodies to purchase land which is abandoned, neglected or causing harm to the environmental wellbeing of the community, where the owner is not willing to sell that land.  This is if the purchase is in the public interest and compatible with the achievement of sustainable development of the land.

Part 5: Provides community bodies with a right to request to purchase, lease, manage or use land and buildings belonging to local authorities, Scottish public bodies or Scottish Ministers. 

Please refer to the  Scottish Government for further information.

Scottish Government: Community Empowerment and Engagement


Scottish Natural Heritage has a web page that describes the main points of the act in more detail.

SNH: Community Empowerment Act


Fly-tipping is illegally dumping waste.

People convicted of fly-tipping offences can:

  • receive substantial fines
  • prison sentences of up to five years
  • be made to pay the costs of enforcement, investigation and clean-up
  • be made to give up any vehicles used to carry out fly-tipping.

What you must do

You are responsible for the disposal of any material that is fly-tipped on your land. You have a legal duty of care to ensure that the waste is disposed of or recycled at an authorised facility.

Duty of care - your waste responsibilities

If you arrange for the waste to be removed, you must check that the person who removes the fly-tipped waste is a registered waste carrier.

You must complete a waste transfer note before you pass your waste on to someone else, or a consignment note if the waste is hazardous/special waste. You and the waste carrier must both sign the note.

Hazardous/special waste

Good practice

If you discover fly-tipped material on your land you should contact your local council or your environmental regulator.

Contact your environmental regulator

Contact your local council

Before you touch the waste, make sure it's safe to do so. Be extremely careful as some wastes can be hazardous. Do not open bags or drums. Piles of soil may be contaminated or hide dangerous material.

Remember that fly-tippers are doing something illegal - they are unlikely to welcome people observing them or taking notes or photographs.

If you see anyone fly-tipping waste, take details of their vehicle, including its registration.

Before you arrange to dispose of the waste, check with your local council or your environmental regulator that they have all the evidence they need for any investigation.

In Scotland you can report fly-tipping on the Dumb Dumpers website.

Scotland: Dumb Dumpers

Or report it by phone on the Dumb Dumpers stop line: 0845 2 30 40 90

Tips for preventing fly-tipping

Work out why your land is being targeted. You can then make your property less vulnerable.

Install gates and barriers to prevent access. These can be in keeping with the natural environment, eg boulders. Make sure that you do not block a public right of way.

Close gates when not in use and lock them if possible.

Improve visibility so that fly-tippers are not hidden from view. Clear small areas of land or landscaping to reduce hidden corners.

Install or improve lighting.

Further information

Scotland: Fly-tipping

nidirect: Fly tipping - what you can do

Hunting with dogs and deer stalking are subject to different regulations across the UK.

Hunting with dogs


Hunting wild mammals with dogs is prohibited in Scotland unless you have an exemption. Hare coursing is also banned.

Northern Ireland

Hunting with dogs is still allowed in Northern Ireland. However, hare coursing has been banned since autumn 2010, following a series of temporary bans and conservation orders.

Deer stalking

Deer hunting regulations differ across the UK. However, all stalkers must not:

  • use illegal firearms to kill deer
  • shoot out of season
  • shoot at night
  • shoot from a vehicle (a moving vehicle in Scotland) or use a vehicle to drive deer
  • sell venison to unlicensed dealers.

You will no longer need a game licence to kill or take game or deer.

Further information on hunting with dogs and deer stalking

BASC: Deer stalking code of practice

Deer Commission for Scotland: Best practice guides

Nature conservation

Lead shot can be toxic to birds and animals, and can cause land contamination.

The use of lead shot throughout the UK is restricted to protect waterbirds from lead poisoning.

What you must do

You must not use lead shot when shooting with a shotgun on or over wetlands. Wetlands include:

  • rivers and canals
  • reservoirs, loughs and lochs
  • pools and ponds
  • marine and coastal wetlands
  • inland flight pools
  • farmland that is regularly flooded.

British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC): Protecting waterfowl from lead in wetlands - a practical guide to the lead shot regulations in Scotland

In Northern Ireland the lead shot regulations are based on the Scottish approach and prohibit the use of lead shot on or over any area of wetland for any shooting activity. Wetlands are defined as, regardless of size, any areas of foreshore, marsh, fen, peatland with standing water, regularly or seasonally flooded fields, and other water sources wheter they be natural or man-made, static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt.

Good practice

Use non-lead shot if it is appropriate. Lead shot can cause contamination if it accumulates in the ground. It is therefore good practice to avoid using lead shot wherever possible.

If you do use lead shot, you should collect spent shot and bullets from the shot-fall area to help avoid causing contamination. If you are setting up a new shooting range you can underlay the shot-fall area with concrete and enclose the drainage to prevent contamination.

If you think your land could be contaminated, or if you think you could cause land contamination, see our guidance on contaminated land.

Further information on lead shot

BASC: Lead and non-lead shot

The code of good shooting practice (Adobe PDF - 1.6MB)

Other relevant NetRegs guidance

Land contamination

NetRegs does not provide detailed guidance on planning issues. If you intend to renovate, alter, demolish or do any work on a building which might be listed then you should contact the planning department of your local council.

Find your local council

Information on listed buildings, including repair grants, is available from the following sources:


Historic Scotland

You may need to control pests such as rats, rabbits, foxes, mink, stoats, moles and grey squirrels.

You can control pests with pesticides and poisons, by shooting or using traps or snares.

Pesticides and poisons can cause significant environmental damage and they also pose a threat to human and animal health.

What you must do

Use approved pesticides and biocides

You must only use pesticides and biocides that have been approved by the appropriate authority.

You must only use pesticides for the purpose for which they were intended. This purpose should be stated on the product label. For example, some products are only approved for use against rodents, rabbits and grey squirrels. You must only use them to control these species.

If you are unsure about the correct use of a product contact the manufacturer or supplier before you use it.

Check the UK register of approved pesticides for more information.

CRD: Register of approved chemicals
What do pesticide and biocide users need to do?

Have a certificate of competence

You may need a qualification called a certificate of competence to use agricultural pesticides.

Read section 2 of the code for using plant protection products to find out if you need a certificate of competence.

Scottish Government: Code of Practice for Using Plant Protection Products

Do not use pesticides for certain species

You must not use pesticides to control some pest species, such as mink, foxes and stoats. However, you can control them by shooting or trapping.

Snaring in Scotland: A practitioners' guide (Adobe PDF - 3.84MB)

Check if you need a licence to control bird pests

All wild bird species are protected by law in the UK. You must not harm protected species such as peregrine, osprey and harriers. However, the law allows hunting of certain game birds and the control of pest species.

You can shoot or trap pest birds, such as crows, magpies, pigeons and gulls under a general licence.

There are only 12 bird species that you can control legally, including some species of gull, crow and pigeon. However, the situation varies for different species across the UK.

You must apply for a licence from your environmental regulator to control certain bird pests such as carrion crows and magpies.

Joint Nature Conservation Committee: list of protected bird species (Adobe PDF - 300 KB)

British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC): Information on general licences

In some circumstances you can get a specific licence if you need to use an otherwise illegal method to trap birds, or control a protected species.

Scottish Government: Wildlife licensing and registration

Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA): Wildlife licensing

Dispose of dead animals correctly

If you have killed a wild animal as vermin or to reduce the population, eg a deer culling exercise, you need to dispose of carcasses appropriately. Wild animal carcasses that you don't have a use for are waste, and you have a duty of care to dispose of them safely, so you don't cause pollution or attract vermin.

You must:

  • store and transport your waste appropriately and securely so it doesn't escape
  • check that your waste is transported and handled by people and businesses that are authorised to do so
  • complete waste transfer notes (including a written description of the waste) to document all waste movements, and keep these as a record for at least two years.

See our guidance on who is allowed to deal with your waste.

You must not bury or burn in the open any animal carcasses, unless you have permission, for example if there is a disease outbreak or if you are in a designated remote area. See our guidance on disposing of animal carcasses.

Bury poisoned vermin safely

You can bury small quantities of vermin that you have killed on your land. You must ensure that you don't cause water pollution.

You must meet conditions in the relevant SEPA or NIEA position statement if you bury rodent carcasses on your land.

SEPA: Position statement - Burial of small quantities of rodent carcasses poisoned on farmland (Adobe PDF - 178KB)

NIEA: Position Statement – Burial of Rodents poisoned on farmland  

Spray pesticides responsibly

You must spray pesticides carefully, particularly when working near to watercourses, so you don't cause pollution of surface water or groundwater. See our guidance on spraying pesticides .

Dispose of waste pesticides and biocides correctly

Pesticides and biocides are likely to be classed as hazardous/special waste, so you will have to separate them from other waste.

You can dispose of pesticide and biocide containers as normal waste if you triple rinse and drain them, following the product label instructions. Some containers can never be cleaned completely, for example smoke canisters and packaging for poisons that contain aluminium phosphide. You must always dispose of these as hazardous/special waste.

You must never dispose of waste pesticide to a soakaway, watercourse or drain.

You may be able to:

  • apply dilute pesticide washings to a crop, in accordance with the instructions on the product label
  • dispose of pesticides to land if you have authorisation from your environmental regulator - see our guidance on water pollution
  • dispose of pesticide washings to a lined biobed in Scotland, but only if you have registered an exemption with SEPA.

Water pollution guidance

Contact your environmental regulator

Waste exemptions for hunting, shooting and game breeding

For more information on how to dispose of your pesticides correctly, see our guidance on disposing of pesticides and biocides.

Good practice

Store pesticides safely

Pesticides are highly polluting and you should store, handle and dispose of them carefully to prevent them entering drains and watercourses. For example, store your pesticides in an area where you can contain any spills or leaks, such as in an impermeable bund.

For more information on how to store pesticides and other chemicals, see our guidance on oil storage and chemical storage.

Report wildlife crimes

Report any illegal or accidental poisoning of wildlife to the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS).

Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme

Further information on pest control

Pesticides and biocides
Nature conservation


The Land reform (Scotland) Act 2003 established statutory public rights of access to land for recreational and other purposes.  

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code provides detailed guidance on these responsibilities.  Everyone, whatever their age or ability, can exercise access rights over most land and inland water in Scotland, at any time of day or night, providing they do so responsibly.

Access rights do not apply to the following places:

  • houses and gardens, and non-residential buildings and associated land;
  • land in which crops are growing;
  • land next to a school and used by the school;
  • sports or playing fields when these are in use and where the exercise of access rights would interfere with such use;
  • land developed and in use for recreation and where the exercise of access rights would interfere with such use;
  • golf greens (but you can cross a golf course provided you don’t interfere with any games of golf);
  • places like airfields, railways, telecommunication sites, military bases and installations, working quarries and construction sites; and
  • visitor attractions or other places which charge for entry.

What you must do

Owners or managers of land or water in Scotland must manage the land in a way which is responsible in respect of the public's statutory access rights.

Land manager’s responsibilities:

  • Make sure you do not purposefully or unreasonably prevent, hinder or deter people from exercising rights on or off paths or tracks.
  • You must take access rights into account when planning and implementing any major land use change or development.
  • You should respect any rights of way or customary access across your land or water.
  • Avoid using “no access”, “private” or “keep out” signs.
  • Do not lock gates which would prevent legitimate public access.
  • Act reasonably when asking people to avoid certain areas. Suggest and clearly waymark alternative routes.
  • State at obvious access points any necessary precautions or diversions, particularly where access levels are high.

Further Information

Scottish Outdoor Access Code: Guidance for different activities

Northern Ireland

Access to Countryside

In Northern Ireland public access is restricted to:

  1. areas of land which are in public ownership and to which the public are invited to use,
  2. public rights of way, or
  3. where the public have the landowner’s permission to visit.

District councils have responsibility for access to the countryside in Northern Ireland, any local issues should be reported to them.

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency can provide advice on general countryside access matters.

Further Information

Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland: Access to the Countryside – The Legal Position

NI Countryside Code

NI Public Rights of Way Legislation

The Access to the Countryside (Northern Ireland) Order 1983 states that land managers or owners should maintain any structures across a public right of way in a safe condition and should prevent unreasonable interference. No notices containing false or misleading information likely to deter public from using the way should be placed, otherwise it could lead to a fine.

The Access to the Countryside (Northern Ireland) Order 1983



In Scotland

Members of the public can only exercise access rights to cross over a golf course and in doing so, must keep off greens at all times and not interfere with any golf games. To avoid damaging the playing surface, cyclists and horse riders need to keep to paths at all time and not go on to any other part of a golf course.

Land managers should ensure to provide paths around or across the course where possible and/or advise people on the safest ways through the course. This will help to minimise safety risks. Different types of access should also be provided, that includes walking, cycling etc.

Local access officers are available from your local council to assist with any access issues. Find out more here.

In Northern Ireland

Members of the public do not have access rights to unenclosed land, however they are generally free to roam National Trust lands, country parks and forest parks.

Further information

SNH Scottish Outdoor Access Code: Your rights and responsibilities

Scottish Outdoor Access Code – Golf Courses


The Coastal Protection Act 1949 (Part 1) gives powers to Coastal Protection Authorities (Local Authorities with coastlines) to carry out works needed to protect land from erosion or encroachment by the sea, inside and outside of their area as necessary, subject to the approval of the Scottish Government. However the authorities are not obliged to protect eroding coastlines.

What You Must Do

Landowners are responsible for the management and prevention of coastal erosion. Schemes proposed by landowners require the consent of the Coast Protection Authority. Depending upon the nature and scale of the works you may also require planning permission. Road, rail and harbour authorities do not require consent; however they are required to submit a notice of proposed works to the Coast Protection Agency.

Further to these requirements, because coast protection works below Mean High Water of Spring tide (MHWS) might affect or interfere with marine transport or navigation, you will need a consent/licence from the Marine Scotland Licensing Operations Team.

If your work includes movement of beach sediment or the erection of structure below HWMOST (High Water Mark of Ordinary Spring Tides), you will need a licence from the Marine Scotland Licensing Operations Team.

Useful Information

SNH - Summary of legislation

SNH guidance on managing coastal erosion in beach/dune systems

Marine Licensing in Scotland – Scottish Government

Scottish Golf: Coastal erosion guidelines


Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland central government departments are responsible for the construction, maintenance and repair of coastal defences in their possession.

Using the ‘Bateman formula’ coastal works that are deemed necessary are carried out by the department or authority responsible for the asset at risk.

Whats new on NetRegs

  • Waste – Duty of Care Roles and Responsibilities

    The Northern Ireland Environment Agency has published a short guide to the duty of care responsibilities including advice and information for waste producers, carriers and those accepting, storing and treating waste.



  • GPP 24 Stables, Kennels and Catteries

    NEW GPP 24 now available: Stables, Kennels and Catteries

  • EIA (Agriculture) Regulations for Northern Ireland

    Any person intending to alter the use or management of areas of uncultivated or semi-natural land must obtain prior approval from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

    Read more on the DAERA website

  • Guidance from your environmental regulator

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