Defra set to scrap more than 50 environmental regulations

Environment secretary Caroline Spelman has unveiled plans to shake-up environmental regulations - by scrapping more than 50 'obsolete' regulations following a red tape review.

Announcing the outcome of the Government’s ‘Red Tape Challenge’ for environmental regulations today (March 20), Ms Spelman denied it was about “rolling back environmental safeguards” or “cutting regulation to stimulate growth”.

Instead, she argued that “simpler and smarter” environment regulations will provide savings to businesses of more than £1bn over five years, as well as protecting the environment by making regulations cheaper and easier for companies to follow.

Developed in consultation with green groups and businesses the changes will see 132 regulations improved, 70 remain unchanged and 53 regulations cut completely.

Mrs Spelman said: “We’ve always said that we were going to keep the vitally important protection our environment needs. This was about getting better rules, not weaker ones.

“The results of the Red Tape Challenge will be good for the environment and good for business, because as well as upholding environmental protection we will remove unnecessary bureaucracy to allow businesses to free up resources to invest in growth.”

A major change includes the scrapping of time-intensive Waste Transfer Notes (WTNs) – instead allowing businesses to provide other forms of evidence, such as invoices.

However, while the drive to cut red tape has been welcomed by business and representative groups, there are concerns that the promopsed measures may not necessarily produce the desired results.

The UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA), for example, reacted yesterday by saying that further consideration was needed in regards to waste, as it believed:

“The proposal to introduce an electronic recording system for waste transfer notes is unlikely to produce any real practical benefits, as transfer notes can already be produced in electronic form.

“Simplifying the guidance on hazardous waste won’t necessarily improve things, as simplified and reduced guidance is more open to argument over what it means, although Defra has made clear it aims to secure improvement by consulting on this to ensure as much clarity as possible

“Opening up civic amenity sites and kerbside collections to small and medium sized businesses is going to put increased pressure on those facilities, as well as potentially putting private sector contractors at a competitive disadvantage.

“Exempting more businesses from battery producer responsibility obligations is unlikely to have no impact on recycling rates. If anything, it will reduce recycling rates.

“Poor and inconsistent enforcement and a lack of prosecutions are not good reasons for abolishing the Site Waste Management Plans Regulations. The Government should be looking at how it can improve enforcement and work with the construction industry to improve the treatment of construction waste.”

Other proposed simplifications include a Defra pledge to work with the European Commission on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation in a bid make the system fairer for small businesses.

Full details of the Environment Theme Proposals resulting from the Red Tape Challenge are available here.

Carys Matthews

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