There are no specific licences that you will need to work as a fencing contractor, so if your business activities are going to fall within the usual range of services offered by this type of business you may not need to do anything further.
If you are going to transport building waste and rubble, which is classified as a controlled waste, you will need a certificate of registration as an upper tier waste carrier ('waste carrier' in Scotland). Old fencing removed from a site would be classified as a controlled building waste. Certificates are issued by:
- the Environment Agency in England
- Natural Resources Wales
- the Northern Ireland Environment Agency
- the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) in Scotland
They currently cost about £155 for the initial registration fee (a bit more in Scotland, a little less in Northern Ireland) and a further renewal fee of about £105 after every three years.
You should also be aware of the following:
- if your business operates goods vehicles with a gross plated weight of more than 3.5 tonnes (or unladen weight more than 1,525 kg for unplated vehicles) then it will need a goods vehicle operator licence in England, Scotland and Wales. In Northern Ireland you may need a goods vehicle operator's licence from the Transport Regulation Unit (TRU) of the Department for Infrastructure (DfI). More information about goods vehicle operator licensing is available on the Gov.uk website - and from the DfI website in Northern Ireland
- anyone who sells, advises on, arranges or assists in selling general insurance may need to be authorised and regulated by the FCA even if insurance is only a small part of their business. For example, many insurance backed warranties are classed as general insurance products for the purposes of this regulation. Contact the FCA for further information
Note that skips placed on a public highway require a highway permit from the local authority. In some cases, a controlled parking permission is also required. Charges for these licences vary - your local authority will be able to give you details of charges that apply in your area. If you hire skips, ask the hire company who is responsible for obtaining the necessary licences and permits.
Many would-be customers will want to satisfy themselves that your business does good quality work using safe techniques and suitable materials. Business clients like building contractors and organisations like local authorities, the Ministry of Defence and the Highways Agency are particularly likely to want evidence that your business works to a high standard.
One way of demonstrating your commitment to quality is to gain certification for your workmanship. Various different certification schemes exist, including the Fencing Industry Skills Scheme (FISS), British Standards and the ISO quality standards. The European Fencing Industry Association (EFIA) has negotiated discounts for its members with a number of industry partners who provide ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 services.
The Association of Fencing Industries (AFI) operates the Certified Contractor scheme for contractors who meet the necessary criteria, with four different colour-coded levels of certification appropriate to different types and scales of project. The scheme is open to members and non-members. You can find out more on the AFI website.
The Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme (CHAS) enables construction industry and related contractors to demonstrate to would-be clients that they meet the required workplace and site health and safety standards. Participating in this pre-qualification scheme can save time when tendering for work from the public sector and other large organisations. There is more information on the CHAS website.
Although it's not mandatory for operators of plant machinery to hold a skills registration card, it's a good way of showing that your business complies with the requirement under the Health and Safety at Work Act for plant operators to be suitably trained. More and more contractors, clients and sites only permit plant operatives who hold a valid skills registration card or 'ticket'.
The skills body CITB offers one of the best known card schemes, the Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS). You can find out more about the CPCS on the CITB website.
Like some other areas of the construction industry, the fencing industry has its fair share of rogues and cowboys who do shoddy work, overcharge and are in many cases just downright dishonest. More and more Trading Standards departments throughout Britain participate in the Buy with Confidence (BwC) Trading Standards Approved scheme, through which participating traders are vetted and approved to ensure they operate in a legal, honest and fair way. Joining the scheme can help to reassure would-be customers that you're a trustworthy business - find out more about membership on the BwC website.