New environmental permits come into force

A streamlined permitting system - which Government claims will cut red tape without putting the environment at risk - came into force for the waste sector and heavy industry at the weekend.

The new system will focus on high-risk businesses while easing the regulatory burden on those with a proven environmental record and less hazardous processes.

In practice this will mean less site visits and form filling for those seen as low risk and closer scrutiny of those whose activities pose the greatest threat to the environment.

The new Environmental Permitting Regulations bring together Waste Management Licensing and Pollution Prevention Control rules and replace over 40 sets of regulations with a single system.

The move is part of the Government’s ongoing ‘better regulation’ drive which seeks to remove red tape.

While Government argues that its only motive is to reduce the burden of bureaucracy for business, and therefore costs, critics have argued that less regulation equals higher risks.

Its defenders say it rather allows the better allocation of limited resources and a targeted, risk-based approach is the most effective way to protect the environment and human health.

The Environment Agency’s Chief Executive Baroness Barbara Young said: “The new regulations are in keeping with our role as a modern, risk based regulator.

“Not only will many operators have quicker, easier and more cost-effective regulation, but the Environment Agency will be able to concentrate more of its resources on the riskiest and worst performing operators, leading to a better protected environment.”

Joan Ruddock, Minister for Climate Change, Biodiversity & Waste said: “This is an important initiative that cuts down red tape and provides an easier and more flexible permit.

“The changes will have benefits for a wide range of low-risk businesses, but particularly for smaller enterprises, which often have limited time and resources to spend on form filling.

“In line with the government’s Better Regulation agenda these clearer and simpler regulations will reduce the administrative burden for industry and regulators, saving around £76 million over 10 years.”

The permitting regulations come into force on April 6.

Sam Bond

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