Overhaul of green regulation not revolutionary

13th April 2012

Overhaul of reg

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Despite pledging to scrap or change 70% of environment regulations, the majority of Defra's proposals to cut red tape have been accepted as a sensible approach to tidying up UK legislation

Following the red tape challenge review, Defra has outlined plans to revoke 53 sets of environment regulations and improve 132 more.

While the proposed changes affect almost three-quarters of environment legislation, the majority of those being scrapped are generally redundant regulations on wildlife, and the improvements are aimed at the implementation of the legislation rather than significant changes to the law.

“The spectre of deregulation and removal of protection for species hasn’t materialised,” confirmed Richard Arnold, technical director at consultancy Thomson Ecology. “By and large, the proposals related to wildlife and countryside legislation are about improvement and consolidation.”

Angus Evers, head of the environment group at SJ Berwin LLP and a spokesperson for the UK Environmental Law Association, labelled the report an anticlimax. “There seems to be a lot of headline grabbing about not very much. A few redundant regulations will be revoked and some others streamlined, but the core body of environmental legislation is going to remain pretty much intact.”

With most environment legislation dictated by Europe, the government was never going to be able to make massive changes, according to Stephen Tromans QC.

“In areas like waste, environmental assessment, habitats and industrial emissions, the government has no discretion to simplify or reduce the burden [of regulation],” he said. “If people think that they can do away with this legislation they are living in cloud-cuckoo-land.”

The decision to revoke the 2008 Regulations requiring large construction sites to prepare site waste management plans was criticised, however.

Evers disputed Defra’s position that the Regulations should be scrapped because they are not being effectively enforced.

“[Defra] should be asking why they aren’t being properly enforced and what can be done to improve that,” he argued. “If they revoked every bit of regulation that wasn’t being properly enforced we wouldn’t have anything left.”


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