14 October 2010
A leading expert in scientific and regulatory services is urging the government to take an holistic approach to the UK environmental regulatory infrastructure to ensure that a catastrophic demise of its effectiveness does not take place.
Author of over 35 scientific papers and chief scientist of global infrastructure consultancy WYG, Dr Stephen Bolt believes that there has never been a better opportunity to rethink and improve the UK regulatory structure and delivery for the benefit of the environment, business and the public purse. However, Dr Bolt said this needs to be an open and transparent joined up process involving a wide range of stakeholders.
Speaking in response to today’s announcement regarding the fate of the quangos and the imminent announcement on the comprehensive spending review, Stephen said: “One outcome of these cutbacks is the impact this will have on our environmental regulatory system and the ecosystem services that it supports.
“The UK Environmental Regulatory system has been incredibly effective in delivering environmental improvements to the unique UK ecosystem and this brings benefits for all of us. It is imperative that a full and transparent debate takes place before major changes are made to the regulatory system. Today’s announcement states that the Environment Agency, Natural England, Ofwat and the Forestry Commission are all to be retained and substantially reformed,” he added.
There are many different views regarding environmental regulators. Developers, agriculture and industry have long complained about the lack of clarity and how different regulators’ agendas appear to clash and overlap. Others worry that the financial imperatives faced by the government may act to undermine the very real progress made to date and the future protection of our natural and build environment. This current review represents a unique opportunity to address stakeholders concerns.
Stephen continued: “Today’s announcement demonstrates the scale of the changes. Recently, (July 2010) the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) produced its draft structural reform plan and a consultation entitled ‘An invitation to shape the Nature of England’ (Comments by the end of October 2010). However, there needs to be connectivity between this and today’s announcement. All these changes need to be tested against the government’s ambitious aspiration to be the greenest government ever.
“If this reform is managed in an ad-hoc manner with each regulator simply being required to find year on year efficiencies, it would almost certainly result in a catastrophic diminution of the UK regulatory effectiveness. With the importance now being placed on effective ecosystem services, this cannot be allowed to take place,” added Dr Bolt.