Environment Bill – next stages

Following the Queen’s speech last week, the government has announced that the Environment Bill will come before the House of Commons on May 26, for its final stage of its passage in this House. After this it will go before the House of Lords for more scrutiny and potential amendments. Some initial comments are set out below.

The Queen’s speech included additional amendments including the new legal duties relating to the better management of storm sewer overflows. These included a duty on water companies to publish annual data on storm overflow operations. It also imposes a duty  on the government to publish a plan on reducing sewage discharges into rivers together with a duty on government to report to parliament regarding progress on this plan and a duty.

Interestingly, despite the government’s acceptance of the Climate Change Committee’s recommendation to drive the target of reducing emissions by 78% by 2035 the Queen’s speech was silent on any actions to bind this target and how the government proposes to meet it.

Targets for air quality, biodiversity, water and resource efficiency and waste reduction, these will not need to be set until the 31 October 2022 and will come into force once approved by parliament. There are new powers for English local authorities to issue fixed penalty notices for the offence of emitting dark smoke from a domestic chimney in a smoke control area.

Regarding nature conservation the bill imposes a duty on public authorities to enhance as well as conserve biodiversity. However, as the bill currently stands, this applies to decisions by public authorities that relate to policies and specific objectives as the authority considers appropriate. The bill introduces a 10% biodiversity net gain obligation for developers for certain schemes and the use of voluntary but legally binding agreements known as conservation covenants.  These are agreements between a landowner and public body (likely to have a conservation interest) to do or not to do something on the relevant parcel of land, and which lasts for seven years.

Further information will follow but if you have any questions on the above, please contact me on 01473 611211.

Jane Haviland is a solicitor specialising in environmental law in the Business Services Team at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.

Ipswich Environmental Law Solicitors – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email bg@barkergotelee.co.uk