The Environment Bill was announced in the Queen’s Speech on 14 October 2019 but what does the Bill mean for your local environment?
The Environment Bill 2019-20 sits alongside the Government’s longer-term objective for “this, to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than that in which we inherited it.”
The first part of the Bill is to provide measures to address environmental governance gaps following withdrawal from the EU and beyond.
The Bill puts into legislation a series of environmental principles and establishes an Office for Environmental Protection, which will have scrutiny, advice and enforcement functions.
It also makes provision for the setting of long-term, legally binding environmental targets in four “priority areas” of air quality, water, biodiversity and resource efficiency and waste reduction, along with the production of statutory Environmental Improvement Plans – 25 Year Environment Plan
- A new direction for resources and waste management
The Bill makes provisions for the managing of waste and producer responsibility. The provisions introduce a revised extended packaging producer responsibility scheme, the power to regulate for ecodesign standards and resource efficiency information across a wider range of products, and amendments to the responsibilities and powers for separating and recycling waste. It provides a framework for a deposit return scheme.
- Improving the air we breathe
The Bill deals with air quality and amends the requirements and management of Local Air Quality Management Frameworks. It also provides local authorities with greater powers in smoke control areas and includes provision to require the recall of road vehicles on environmental grounds.
- Delivering sustainable water resources
The Bill includes provisions relating to water resources management in six different areas: the development of joint regional plans for long-term water resource management, a statutory duty for water companies to develop long-term drainage and sewerage management plans, amendments to the water company licencing process, amendments to the abstraction licence process, powers to amend water quality standards and the land valuation process for internal drainage board (IDB) charges.
- Restoring and enhancing nature and green spaces
The Bill legislates for the creation of the net gain requirement of 10%, expands the duty on relevant authorities from conserving to “conserving and enhancing” biodiversity, and legislates for the creation of Local Nature Recovery Strategies to cover the whole of England supported by DEFRA and legislates for the introduction of conservation covenants.
- Chemicals regulation (REACH)
The (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) Regulation regulates the manufacture, placing on the market and use of chemicals. The REACH Enforcement Regulations 2008 set out how the requirements of the REACH Regulation are enforced.
This Bill creates a framework in which strong local government leadership will be enhanced to drive the necessary, and once in a lifetime environmental improvement to reverse decades of biodiversity loss and improve air quality. Most of the Bill extends to England and Wales and applies in England. There are some parts that extend to the whole of the UK or apply to specific countries.
Government will fully fund all new burdens on local authorities arising from the Bill in order to make our ambition a reality. We are committed to working in partnership with local government, businesses and wider stakeholders on the implementation of these measures, to identify and secure the capacity and skills to deliver a cleaner, greener and healthier environment.
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