UK May Find Itself Without Environmental Framework To Govern Environmental Legislation
Environmental lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have voiced dismay that the Government’s ‘flagship’ Environment Bill’ has yet again been delayed and further amendments now proposed. The bill is not now due to appear again until 1 December when it will be before the Bill Passage Committee.
This delay means there is no longer enough parliamentary time available for the Environment Bill to pass into law before 1st January 2021- with the result that the UK will be without an environmental watchdog at the end of the Brexit transition period and there will be a gap in environmental legislation and the way this is governed.
Claire Petricca-Riding, Head of Planning and Environment at Irwin Mitchell said, “Given the announcements from the Cabinet throughout the summer which went to heart of the key environmental issues the country faces, the delay of this vital piece of legislation is a disappointing set back. The bill should have been before the Parliamentary committee in September and the delay will mean the Bill has not been seen in the House of Commons for over 200 days.”
She continued, “Not only is the Bill delayed, but we have been promised various consultations on the 16 binding targets the Government which to set in the 4 main areas of air, waste and resources, water and biodiversity together with the fundamental reform of the environmental impact assessment framework. None of the consultations have yet to come to light.
Yesterday saw further amendments to the Bill which seeks to introduce Species Conservation and Protected Site Strategies in what is clearly an alignment with the much discussed zonal planning policy which has been introduced in the recent planning white paper. Further the amendment to the role of the Office of Environmental Protection casts doubt on its independence.
Claire Petricca-Riding continued, “This lack of information combined with the ‘Planning for the Future’ White Paper, Brexit and the current global pandemic has led to further uncertainty not only for the development sector, but for us all, which will restrict growth and innovation.”
“Commentary on this issue is saying it is embarrassing for the Government in the run up to COP26- and I am minded to agree. Whilst the amendments show the Government is still thinking about these issues, we need to start seeing a clearer strategy of getting this bill through the houses. To use a famous suffragette slogan what we need now is ‘deeds not words’ from the Government.”
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