February Policy Update
It has been a busy two months for environmental policy! In these turbulent political times, now more than ever it is vital for the voices of environmental professionals to be heard by key decision makers.
The Environmental Policy Forum (EPF) - made up of leading environmental organisations and for which the Society acts as Secretariat - has been working hard over the last few months to ensure its 2019 aims are met.
One of the Forum’s leading aims has been to help shape the contents of the final Environment Bill, due to be published this summer. As part of the delivery of this aim, the EPF responded to the EFRA and EAC Inquiry into the Scrutiny of the Draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill. While welcoming the government’s ambition and stated commitment to improving environmental standards, the Forum’s submission also cited concerns regarding the independence and enforcement powers of the proposed Environmental Watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP). For the EPF, the current proposals raise serious questions over the OEP’s ability to hold government to account. To address these concerns, the EPF called for the OEP to be moved away from Government and closer to Parliamentary scrutiny. To aid enforcement of the principles, the Forum would also like to see the OEP be able to take cases of non-compliance to the First Tier Tribunal. As it stands, the Bill provides the OEP only with the ability to take cases to Judicial Review, which as a legal option has significant limitations. You can view the EPF’s submission here. The Society also made its own response to the Inquiry, which can be viewed here.
Another of the Forum’s key aims is to highlight the views of the environmental profession by responding to key Government consultations. This month the EPF made a submission to the Government’s consultation on introducing mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain. Under the proposals, a development project would need to ensure it delivers an overall net gain in biodiversity before planning permission is granted. Overall, the Forum welcomed the proposals, agreeing with the Government that they will help to standardise practices across local authorities. Nevertheless, the EPF called for greater detail to be provided on several elements of the proposals, including how the tariff system will work in ensuring sufficient compensation for failure to deliver Net Gain. The response also stressed the importance of involvement of key stakeholders in all stages of the process, providing insight and expertise in consultation and helping ensure effective delivery of the proposals. The full EPF submission can be viewed here.
Looking forward over the next couple of months, the EPF will continue to strive to influence the contents of the final Environment Bill, including via our links with the Broadway Initiative. In addition, the Forum will be considering the first series of consultations attached to the Resources and Waste Strategy- just announced- as well as assessing the latest developments in Agriculture and Fisheries Bills as they reach report stage in the House of Commons.
Sarah Ridgeon, Policy and Communications Officer
More information on the Environment Bill can be found via the GOV.UK website
You can also find out more about the EPF, including its member organisations, here