The UK government has published its timetable for reforming environmental legislation following the recommendations of the red tape challenge
Defra has outlined its plans to remove, condense and simplify environmental regulation over the next four years, pledging to prioritise changes that will make “meaningful improvements for business” and reduce the “administrative burden” of compliance.
In its implementation plan, the environment department confirms that the Landfill Allowance Scheme will be scrapped next year alongside regulations requiring construction sites to complete waste management plans, despite critical reactions in March when Defra originally announced the move. Defra’s plans state: “Industry consensus is that business would generate the requirements of the [Site Waste Management Plans] Regulations regardless of their existence but that getting rid of them would save businesses the associated administrative burden.”
CRS’s Head Of Environment, comments ‘ Environmental Legislation needs a clearer structure similar to health and safety, the sector specific approach at the moment is not fit for purpose and encourages organisations not to start to develop a legal register’
The environment department will consult on removing the regulations in December, with the final decision expected to by October 2013.
According to the implementation plan, consultations will be launched in January 2013 into how to improve the producer responsibility regimes for packaging and batteries – with Defra particularly looking at exempting more small businesses from the batteries regulations. Reviews of the regimes are to be finished by January 2014.
New guidance on cost sharing under the REACH legislation will be published before the end of the year, according to the plan, and by April 2014 Defra aims to have simplified the enforcement of the REACH rules by merging the REACH Enforcement Regulations 2008 with the Persistent Organic Pollutants Regulations 2007 and the Mercury Export and Data (Enforcement) Regulations 2010.
By April 2013, the department plans to have created a more streamlined environmental permitting regime, enabling all firms to decide the sequencing of planning and permitting applications. Meanwhile, the Environment Agency will publish guidance on how to apply for environmental permits and planning permission simultaneously by November 2012.
A new online legislation library, called Defra-lex, will also go live next April, and will provide organisations and environment professionals with a “one-stop-shop” for all publications related to Defra-legislation including guidance and consultation documents.
Defra’s implantation plan also covers work to be undertaken over the next four years by the Environment Agency and Natural England to improve the way in which legislation is enforced. The agency, for example, will be looking at how to enable businesses to upload information about hazardous waste electronically in a bid to cut paperwork and, by April 2014, it has pledged to simplify its guidance and shorten documents by 25%.
The agency also aims to publish plans by next summer on how it will tailor its regulatory approach to the 14 main business sectors it works across, and by November 2013 it will have also trialled its EMS+ scheme – where third-parties complete compliance checks.
The plan also confirms that a progress report on improving the implementation of the Habitats Directive is due to be published next spring, and that by the end of 2014 Defra will have reviewed and streamlined air quality legislation, particularly to ensure local authorities duties are aligned with EU targets.