The Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) has published its updated strategy and enforcement policy following the public consultation that was held earlier in the year. IEMA’s Head of Policy, Ben Goodwin, takes a look at what this means for the OEP going forward and more importantly for the future of our natural environment.

The OEP’s consultation on its strategy and approach to enforcement took place from 25th January to 22nd March 2022, attracting 68 written submissions. Surveying and focus group sessions were also participated in by 5,151 members of the public, so we can conclude that the process was fairly exhaustive.

The OEP’s new plans set out how the organisation will approach its monitoring, advisory and enforcement functions within the context of four specific objectives. Namely, delivering:

  • Sustained environmental improvement
  • Better environmental law, better implemented
  • Improved compliance with environmental law
  • Organisational excellence and influence

The plan is robust in explaining how each of these four objectives will be met, and IEMA is encouraged to see that elements of the insights that we put forward as part of the consultation process have been picked up in the plan.

In particular, the need for the OEP to play a greater role in scrutinising the government’s approach to delivering Environmental Improvement Plans (EIPs) and the long-term environmental targets is now more fully recognised, including a more thorough appraisal of how this will be done. This is important because although the right environmental outcomes are ultimately key, these will not be achieved if the government’s implementation plans are not consistently and carefully put under the microscope.

However, there remain concerns around the resources that have been made available to the OEP and whether or not it will be able to effectively carry out its role as a consequence. A review of resourcing will take place later in the year and we would expect that any recommendations for increasing the OEP’s spending power and head count are delivered in a timely manner, so as to ensure the ongoing effectiveness of the organisation.

Governance also remains a key challenge. Not for the OEP itself, but rather within the context of the overall changes to the policy regime that the Environment Act has created. The governance architecture linking EIPs, the Environmental Principles, long-term environmental targets and the OEP itself is still fresh. Ensuring that it evolves in a cohesive and effective way will be necessary if we are to realise more positive environmental outcomes now and in the future.

IEMA will continue to engage with the OEP, providing support and advice where helpful.

Photo of Ben goodwin
Ben Goodwin

Director of Policy and Public Affairs, IEMA, IEMA

Ben is Director of Policy and Public Affairs at IEMA. In this capacity he looks after the delivery of IEMAs core policy, practice and public affairs activities across a range of environmental and sustainability issues. Prior to joining the organisation Ben worked in several similar policy roles at organisations including the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Renewable Energy Association.


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