In principle, the LGA support the objective of the new proposed system of environmental assessment, to streamline the existing EU-derived processes and place an increased focus on delivering environmental ambitions in the UK. However the consultation does not contain the level of detail required to understand how Environmental Outcome Reports (EOR’s) will work in practice. We would urge Government to engage directly with local authorities when drafting the outcomes and ahead of public consultation, to ensure they are practical and can be monitored effectively.
Environmental Assessment Reform Team
Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities
3rd Floor, Fry Building
London SW1P 4DF
Friday 9 June 2023
Dear Environmental Assessment Reform Team,
I am writing in response to the government’s consultation on Environmental Outcomes Reports: a new approach to environmental assessment, open from 17 March to 9 June 2023.
In principle, the LGA support the objective of the new proposed system of environmental assessment, to streamline the existing EU-derived processes and place an increased focus on delivering environmental ambitions in the UK. We also support the proposed move to an outcomes-based approach to protecting, preserving and enhancing our natural environment. It is absolutely vital that any reform to the current regime of environmental assessment enhances, not reduces, the level of protection currently afforded to our environment as well as simplifies an often duplicitous and inaccessible process. We want to ensure however that process simplification does not unintentionally tilt the balance away from consideration of complex ecological interactions. Given increasingly more frequent and intense extreme weather events and ongoing issues with flooding, water scarcity and nutrient neutrality in particular, there is a need to look more closely than ever before at the cumulative effects of changing land-use.
We are also concerned that, the consultation does not contain the level of detail required to understand how Environmental Outcome Reports (EOR’s) will work in practice. The Government have set out that further consultation will be required for the draft outcomes, which will then be set out in secondary legislation. We would urge Government to engage directly with local authorities when drafting the outcomes and ahead of public consultation, to ensure they are practical and can be monitored effectively. The consultation does list a number of potential matters that could be reflected as outcomes, including waste, water and air quality. We would also urge inclusion of water availability and flooding in the final Environmental Outcomes. The LGA shares concerns raised by the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) that EOR’s, unlike the current Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), omit considerations of population health. This implies that human wellbeing is a separate issue to environmental quality, contradicting the overwhelming evidence (Health and the Natural Environment: a review of evidence, policy, practice and opportunities for the future (2018) Defra, European Centre for Environment and Human Health and University of Exeter Medical School) that the environments in which we live are inextricably linked to our health across the life course in complex and systemic ways. The Government must reconsider and include population health considerations as part of EOR’s.
EOR’s will be introduced alongside other changes to the environmental regime including Biodiversity Net Gain, Land Use Frameworks and Local Nature Recovery Strategies. Currently the National Planning Policy Framework and planning regulations are silent about Local Nature Recovery Strategies and Land Use Frameworks so they have no material weight in plan-making and planning decisions. Therefore, the Government must set out plainly how these assessments and regimes will be mainstreamed within the planning framework in order to effectively achieve the desired environmental outcomes.
We would finally highlight, that there are clear additional burdens for local authorities from the implementation and ongoing monitoring of EOR’s, which will require sufficient new burdens funding. This is particularly important in the light of cuts to Environment Agency funding for monitoring at a national level which puts further burden on local authorities.
As the Government continues to draft these proposals more fully, the LGA and local authorities would welcome further engagement to ensure the new regime of environmental protection is simplified, streamlined and continues to protect and enhance our environment.
Councillor Linda Taylor
Chair – Environment, Economy, Housing and Transport Board, Local Government Association
18 Smith Square, London, SW1P 3HZ www.local.gov.uk
Telephone 020 7664 3000 Email [email protected]
Local Government Association company number 11177145
Improvement and Development Agency for Local Government company number 03675577
Chairman: Councillor James Jamieson Chief Executive: Mark Lloyd CBE President: Baroness Grey-Thompson