Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Car parking

What you must do

Reduce noise, dust and other nuisances from car parks

If your business causes a nuisance to your neighbours, your local council can require you to take steps to reduce or stop the nuisance, or impose restrictions on or stop your operations.

Nuisances from parking areas could include:

  • noise and fumes from vehicle engines
  • noise from vehicle alarms, eg reversing alarms
  • dust from vehicle wheels
  • excessive artificial lighting
  • vermin
  • accumulated windblown rubbish.

You should control these potential sources of nuisance.

Noise, odour and other nuisances

Control surface water run-off

Surface water run-off from car parks can cause erosion, pollution and even localised flooding. Run-off may contain pollutants such as:

  • oil and fuel
  • hydraulic fluids
  • suspended solids
  • grease
  • antifreeze.

You can discharge surface water run-off to surface water drains or watercourses without a consent or agreement from your water and sewerage company or authority, as long as it is not contaminated. If you want to discharge contaminated water to watercourses you will need permission from your environmental regulator.

If you have a small car park, and you only use it for parking cars, you can discharge surface water run-off directly. However, if you have a larger car park, you should remove oil, grease, petrol and diesel from run-off by passing it through an oil separator before you discharge it. You should also use an oil separator for any run-off from areas used for more polluting activities, such as vehicle servicing.

 GPP 3 Use and design of oil separators in surface water drainage systems (Adobe PDF – 78.6KB)

Alternatively, you can use sustainable drainage systems (SUDS) to drain run-off from car parks. SUDS slow and hold back run-off from a site, so that pollutants can be broken down naturally. In Scotland you must use SUDS to drain run-off from all new car parks.

Sustainable drainage systems (SUDS)

You must not allow contaminated run-off to enter surface water drains, watercourses or groundwater. This will cause pollution and you could be prosecuted.

Water pollution

If your surface water run-off is contaminated, you may be able to discharge it to a foul sewer or a public combined sewer. But you will need a consent or agreement from your water and sewerage company or authority.

Trade effluent - managing liquid wastes

Water UK: Water and sewerage operators

Scotland on Tap - water and sewerage providers in Scotland

If you clean vehicles on your car park, you must not allow run-off to enter surface water drains, surface waters or ground waters. If someone else cleans vehicles on your car park, it is your responsibility to ensure that they do not cause pollution. For more information see our guidance on vehicle cleaning.

Good practice

Use an oil separator in your surface water drains to remove oil, grease, petrol and diesel from surface water run-off.

GPP 3 Use and design of oil separators in surface water drainage systems (Adobe PDF – 78.6KB)

Use catchpots or silt traps on drains, and ensure that they are in place and working effectively during cleaning. Empty them at regular intervals.

Use SUDS to control surface water run-off from your car parking areas.

Sustainable drainage systems (SUDS)

Encourage staff and visitors to use public transport or car share.

Further information on car parks

Chartered Institution of Building and Service Engineers (CIBSE): Society of light and lighting - factfiles

Northern Ireland: Building regulations technical booklets

Scottish Building Standards Agency: Section 3 of Non-domestic handbook - Environment (Adobe PDF - 3.64MB)

SEPA: CAR Practical guide (Adobe PDF - 562KB)

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