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BETA Your feedback will help us improve the UK Plant Health Information Portal

BCP Guidance

HM Government is investing an unprecedented £705 million package of investment for border infrastructure, staff and technology in Great Britain (GB), to ensure our border systems operate effectively and maintain efficient border flow


BCPs have long-since been used to manage import inspections of goods from non-EU countries and are an essential component of the UK’s biosecurity regime. The personnel at these sites are experienced and knowledgeable in the field, meaning they are equipped to identify issues of non-compliance and ensure Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) goods are handled safely and with care. 


Since 2020, Defra has doubled the BCP workforce to meet the increased volume demand expected in line with GB’s phased import regime. Defra has set rigid legislative requirements to qualify as a BCP. Each facility has appropriate infrastructure and safety measures in place when handling and undertaking import inspections to prevent damage and the spread of pests and diseases.  



Staff and resources  


Have more Plant Health and Seed Inspectors (PHSIs) been recruited to handle the increased volume of EU imports? 

Yes, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) have undertaken significant recruitment to increase the number of plant health inspectors in order to service the demand for import and export checks and certification in England and Wales, where the majority of inspectors are required 

To support this, as of 2020, APHA has doubled its Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate (PHSI) workforce to manage the increased volume of EU goods requiring import inspections at BCPs. APHA have so far recruited over 180 new PHSI across England and Wales to manage increased capacities. 

We have had sufficient resources to meet demand since 1 January 2021 when checks of high-priority plants from the EU began, and when we will have arrived at our end-state regime, to ensure minimal disruption to trade. 


If I want to receive an update about the progress of my consignment, who can I contact? 

When submitting your pre-notification(s) on PEACH/IPAFFS, your application status will indicate whether your consignment has been selected for physical inspection or not 

If your goods are selected for inspection, they should be moved to the inspection area within the BCP. This SLA will provide businesses with the certainty they need to plan their imports and ensure the good flow of plants and plant products across the border.  

Please ensure the inspection details you supply in your pre-notification are accurate, so that delivery teams can manage checks efficiently.  

If you have any questions regarding the import of your goods: 

  • For plants and products inspected by APHA, please call the dedicated imports helpdesk at 0300 100 0313 (available between 07.00 until 23.59), or you can email the PHSI Importers helpdesk mailbox: phsi-importers@apha.gov.uk  

  • For plant and plant products inspected by SASA, please email the Horticulture & Marketing mailbox: hort.marketing@gov.scot  

  • For wood, wood products and isolated bark inspected by the Forestry Commission, please call the Cross Border Plant Health Service on 0300 067 5155, or alternatively email: plant.health@forestrycommission.gov.uk 


Are PHSI trained to safely handle my goods? 

Yes. As we bring new staff on board, no PHSI may perform an independent inspection without first being trained and signed off as being competent by an approved PHSI. This allows for a consistent and accurate standard of import inspections across England and Wales, for both EU and non-EU goods. 


All other members of staff working within a BCP facility are trained to meet standard operating procedures, ensuring inspections are undertaken safely, efficiently, and accurately. Where appropriate, staff will be trained to meet SPS processes and procedures and identify cases of non-compliance. 


Inspections and customs hold 


How are inspections performed on my plants and plant products? 

All inspections are performed in line with standard operating procedures. For import inspections, these are performed in accordance with ISO standard 17020  a process which ensures inspections are conducted independently and impartially  which is externally audited by the UK Accreditation Service (UKAS). Based on internal review, auditing by UKAS, and client feedback, we look to inform and strengthen our plant health inspection and training services. This is in addition to the annual review of our chargeable services as part of our annual fees review process. 


What processes/systems are in place to reduce waiting times? 

To reduce waiting times and prevent delays, APHA and FC staff in England and Wales, and SASA staff in Scotland, operate using an automated gateway system that alerts staff when a consignment is declared. These alerts allow PHSI to respond immediately and initiate contact with the GB importer (or their agent) once the consignment arrives. From there the GB importer (or their agent) and the PHSI arrange the timing and locations of the inspection within PHSIs Service Level Agreements (SLAs) 

This cross-cutting system provides analytics and records on historical volumes and risks at every BCP location, allowing for better resource planning for the various output levelsThese data records highlight key trading patterns and trends, enabling PHSIs to allocate sufficient staff across sites during peak hours and seasons. PHSIs will service each BCP based on application numbers and commodities and are able to respond to changes in volumes. 


Is there anything I can do to reduce waiting times?  


At a BCP can a consignment (for example a lorry load of plants on pallets) be unloaded from a lorry and watered if necessary? 

It is fine to water plants to keep them healthy and prevent damage, provided the below points regarding the consignments are fulfilled: 

The operator should make sure that during transport to, and storage at the BCP, the consignment is not tampered withsubject to any alteration or change of packaging, and closed and sealed properly to reduce the risk of pest infestation and contamination. 


If consignments are flagged for inspection, does a member of staff have to wait with the goods before the inspector arrives?   

A member of staff does not need to wait with the consignment before the PHSI arrives. However, a member of staff must be available when the inspector arrives to facilitate inspection and to accompany the PHSI to the inspection point. 

The composition of the consignment must be maintained until a PHSI contacts you and confirms if the whole consignment needs to be made available for inspection, or if they only need access to certain elements of the consignment. 

In circumstances where an inspector is not available, PHSI may ask for the consignment/s to be held securely overnight for inspection the next day. 


Will all consignments be flagged for an inspection?  

To further prevent delays at the border, PHSIs will be conducting risk-based checks, which means not all consignments will be flagged for an inspection. The risk analysis is based on the Country of Origin (CoO)and the commodity to set the parameters. 


If my consignment isn’t flagged for an inspection what happens? 

If your consignment hasn’t been flagged for an inspection and it has been customs cleared, the driver is free to leave the BCP for onwards movement 

If your consignment hasn’t been flagged for an inspection but hasn’t been cleared by customs then the driver must wait until they are cleared by HMRC. They are free to leave once this is complete. 


Has Defra done anything to reduce improve diagnostic turnaround times? 

GB plant health authorities, including the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and our provider of diagnostic services, have undertaken significant recruitment to increase the number of plant health inspectors and diagnosticians in order to service the demand for import and export checks and certification requirements in the run up to and since 1 January 2021. GB plant health services have sufficient staff to meet current demand and recruitment is ongoing to ensure staffing continues to meet forecast increases in trade flows. 

Defra is also reviewing ways to improve diagnostic turnaround times at BCPs. 


Facilities and requirements 

What requirements do BCPs need to meet? 

In order to be designated as a BCP, there are stringent requirements in place that must be met for these sites to qualify. These requirements include a rigorous assessment of each application by the Competent Authoritiesincluding HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and Defra officials, as well as a review of documentary evidence to support designation. 

In additionthe Competent Authorities conduct site visits throughout the build, with final site visit to verify compliance. Each facility is assessed based on the commodity type/s they have applied to manage. For example, plant designated BCPs are assessed based on the criteria set to manage plant and plant products and must therefore have all the necessary facilities and tools in place to undertake these inspections in a safe and biosecure manner. 


How can Defra ensure that BCP continue to meet high standards? 

To ensure BCP minimum requirements are continuously met by site operators, Competent Authorities routinely conduct audits to ensure compliance. A BCP designation will be withdrawn or suspended when the BCP no longer complies with the minimum requirements or its activities pose a risk to public, animal and plant health. 


What if I don’t want to use a BCP? 

Businesses can apply for designation of their premise as a customs-bonded Control Point (CP), meaning import inspections on plant goods are conducted away from the border. However, to be designated as a CP, you must meet the BCP minimum requirements and have customs authorisation to qualify; as well as additional requirements which will be communicated in due course 

It is also necessary that there is sufficient service demand at a prospective CP to make them operationally viable, the number of checks of different commodities to be handled at an individual facility will therefore be considered during the application process. It is expected that the applicant demonstrates that they have robust quality processes in place to manage the inspection process effectively. A third-party accredited quality management system that is relevant to the applicant’s business activities will fulfil this requirement. The movement of goods from the border to a CP will operate under customs supervision, CP must therefore be approved by Customs for this purpose.

As part of the CP application process, operators are required to provide information about their site, the commodities and volumes to be handled through it were it to be designated as a CP, as well as plans for the layout of the facilities with flow lines detailing the movement of people and goods. 

Written operating procedures will also need to be documented and supplied by the applicant. If the site meets all the minimum requirements, a site audit will be conducted by the Competent Authority to confirm this so the Appropriate Authority can officially designate the site as a CP. The Appropriate Authority is Defra in England, the Scottish Government in Scotland, and the Welsh Government in Wales. 


Cross-contamination and safety 


How are BCPs protecting consignments from cross-contamination? 

We acknowledge industrconcerns regarding the potential for cross contamination of pests and diseases at BCPs, but we can assure you that BCPs currently have, and will continue to have, very stringent regimes and processes to ensure each consignment is handled separately and that any risk of the spread of pests and diseases is mitigated.  

BCP’s will be managed under the separate, isolate, contain, clean frameworkThis procedure means that consignments are inspected separately; infected goods are quickly isolated; pests and diseases are contained to prevent spreading; and there are extensive cleaning procedures in place at each site. This framework prevents cross-contamination and ensures the safety of each consignment. 


What safety infrastructure is in place? 

Designated plant specific BCP facilities must provide temperature-controlled zones, dedicated inspection and bio secure detention areas and extensive cleaning protocols to avoid the spread of harmful pests and diseases. 

Each facility is outfitted with quality sealed floors, bio secure seals, and drainage systems that allow inspectors to wash down handling points and stations. If any bio-security concerns are detected on the samples, PHSIs will immediately isolate the sample and quarantine it until it can be destroyed. 

Every consignment is tracked throughout the inspection process and inspection outcomes are communicated electronically to the GB importer or agentThis means that upon its arrival to BCP, consignments are effectively located and transported to the appropriate area.  


Where will my consignment be held if it is flagged for inspection? 

Most BCPs can unload six or more vehicles at a time with ample space to remove or inspect products through sealed docking bay with palleted trucks. Consignments that are flagged for an inspection are held in suitable temperatures in a fully enclosed dedicated area. 


Are products of animal origin (POAO) and plants inspected in the same area? 

If a BCP is designated to handle commodities of both plant and animal origin, they are required to transport, store, and inspect consignments in separate locations. This ensures the goods are not mixed and are kept in the appropriate conditions, for instance temperature-controlled areas appropriate to each type of commodity. 


What if my consignment is too difficult to unload or cannot be inspected at a BCP? 

A BCP or CP (Control Point) ensure biosecurity risk of an imported consignment is managed. A physical inspection will be required at a BCP or CP regardless of the nature of the consignment and plant health inspectors routinely assess inspection requirements of each consignment. They will apply appropriate inspection techniques for the commodity so large or unusual goods arriving at BCPs or CPs can be managed appropriately. This will take account of the commodity, nature of the load and different packing scenarios.

APHA will work with the BCP or CP operator to facilitate inspections taking account of any special requirements. All inspections are performed in line with standard operating procedures on a sample of the consignment and it is not usually necessary to unload all goods. APHA will inform the importer if consignments present any difficulties for inspection so appropriate adjustments can be made in future. 

Traders should consider inspection requirements when planning loading and packaging of consignments and ensure loading practice does not pose a Health and Safety hazard for operators of inspection facilities. Best practice guidance for packaging and loading is outlined in: https://planthealthportal.defra.gov.uk/trade/imports/imports-from-the-eu/bcpscpspods/import-scenario-guidance-for-packaging-and-loading-best-practice/. If you are importing large goods e.g. mature trees on a regular basis, you can consider being designated as a Control Point.  More information can be found on the Plant Health Portal.   

Legislation will be introduced to provide an exemption from certain minimum facility requirements to enable inspections of large plant items such as mature trees at BCPs and CPs.  

We will further update best practice packing guidance for trade to reduce delays in identifying items for inspection. 

BCP related fees 

What fees will be charged for the use of BCPs? 

Other than the BCPs run by UK Government (e.g. Sevington), BCP usage fees (as distinct from plant health inspection fees) are set by the commercial operators of those facilities. Defra has no control over the level of those fees. We continue to engage with commercial BCP operators and will encourage publication of BCP usage fees in a transparent manner as soon as possible. 



ADs – Additional Declarations 

APHA – Animal and Plant Health Agency 

BCP – Border Control Post 

CP- Control Point 

EOI – Expression of Interest 

FC – Forestry Commission 

FSA – Food Standards Agency 

FSS – Food Standards Scotland 

FFNAO – Food and feed of non-animal origin 

IPAFFS - Imports of Product Animals Food and Feed System 

OCR – Official Controls Regulation 

PC – Phytosanitary certificate 

PEACH - Procedure for Electronic Application for Certificates 

PoE – Point of Entry 

POFA – Place of First Arrival 

SASA- Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture 

SPS - Sanitary and Phytosanitary