Headlines: October 16th, 2007

Local authorities across England and Wales will be implementing a simplified system of environmental regulations from April next year. A new single permit is to be introduced to replace the current waste management licence and pollution prevention and control systems.

The Government believes the changes, which follow consultations by Defra, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Environment Agency, will make it easier and cheaper for local businesses to be environmentally responsible. Permits are required for industrial and waste activities which could harm human health or the environment unless they are controlled and the changes will combine more than 40 separate legal instruments into a single set of regulations.

Councils and the Environment Agency are responsible for enforcing the system and it is estimated that they and industry could save 76 million pounds over the next decade. Other benefits are expected to be less paperwork, increased clarity and more flexibility for businesses to make changes.

The Environment Minister Joan Ruddock said simplifying the regulations was a welcome commonsense move. “It will increase clarity and cut the administrative burden for a number of organisations without compromising the existing high standards of protection for the environment and human health. Cutting red tape also means regulators will be able to spend more time pursuing the minority of operators who deliberately flout the rules.”

In addition to replacing several permits with a single site-based environmental permit there will be a new ‘standard rules’ permit for lower risk waste activities. The latter is being developed in consultation with industry and will be published by the Environment Agency before the new system comes into force. Planning controls will continue to apply parallel to activities covered by the new permits.