Proposals to cut the red tape from environmental regulations


There has been talk of proposals to cut environmental regulations down to a single 50 page document. Environment secretary Caroline Spelman will not confirm or deny this. Do the regulations need to be clearer? Charlotte Reid finds out.

Environmental regulations that give guidance about pollution and wildlife could be about to give way to red tape cutting.

The Guardian has revealed that cabinet office minister Oliver Letwin met with senior officials from the Environment Agency and Natural England to tell them that he wanted to make all environmental guidance rules into a 50 page document.

Since then there has been no confirmation of what is going to happen either way.

Environment sectary, Caroline Spelman, was quizzed on the role that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) had in the proposed slashing in environmental guidelines by a select committee on Wednesday.

Spelman said, “I am not in a position to confirm or deny the story. I was not at the meeting”.

The Government has done something like this before. Previously they decided to change the property planning laws, which used to run at over 1,000 pages, to make them clearer and more consistent.

Critics said the new document was confusing and vague. Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Joan Walley MP, said the new planning policy “presents different messages to different audiences about what the presumption in favour of sustainable development actually means”.

The plans to simplify the environmental regulations are said to be part of the Red Tape Challenge which is trying to cut the number of supposedly unnecessary regulations in place in the UK.

In Wednesday’s select committee, Spelman explained the Red Tape Challenge, saying it is there to make “sure that you protect the purpose for which the regulation was put in place but you relieve the regulation where it is duplication or there is any gold plating to relieve the burden on business”.

However, businesses have already challenged the Government’s idea that green regulations are a burden.

Neil Bentley, the deputy director general of the CBI, said in response to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, “Environmental regulation doesn’t have to be a burden for business. Framed correctly, environmental goals can help our economic goals – help start new companies and generate new jobs and enrich all of us”.

This uncertainty from the Government does fit in nicely with the underlying message of what leading think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs, said to Blue & Green Tomorrow last year.

If you are going to act sustainably then do not rely upon government regulation to make you change your ways, do it for yourself.

And there are plenty of ways to do that, such as using renewable energy to power your home or shopping ethically.

You can also invest in sustainable companies, just ask your IFA to find out more. If you don’t have one then fill in our online form and we’ll put you in touch with a financial adviser.