Environment regulators eye reforms

9th February 2017

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  • Devolved government ,
  • Environment agencies ,
  • Environment Agency ,
  • SEPA



The Environment Agency is being urged to increase self-assurance and recover more of the costs of regulation from industry.

The recommendation is contained in the findings of a wide-ranging government review of regulatory practice in England that was mounted after regulators said efficiency could be improved if agencies worked together more.

The review, which was led by regulators themselves, proposes a shift towards what it calls ‘regulated self-assurance’. The Environment Agency (EA) already practises this, with inspections under its pig and poultry assurance scheme delegated to assurers of the Red Tractor food standards. The scheme certifies farms that meet standards covering animal welfare, food safety, traceability and environmental protection.

Where similar schemes are possible, the review said the government should fully implement its policy of funding regulators through charges on those they regulate, rather than from public finances, which currently meet only around half the running costs. The review notes, however, that this approach would require effective enforcement against firms that opt out of self-assurance. It is up to the regulators and their sponsoring government department to develop new models, the review states.

It acknowledges changes are unlikely to be a priority at present because regulators, such as the EA, are focused on Brexit.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) and the Scottish government are consulting on integrating authorisation and enforcement schemes covering water, waste, radioactive substances and pollution prevention and control. Four tiers of authorisation are proposed. A single site would need just one permit to cover several activities, but it would be set at the highest tier.


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