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Cutting red tape may not help the environment

Mar 20, 2012

Further information
Vicki Elcoate

The UK Environmental Law Association has welcomed the Government’s “red tape challenge” aim of reducing bureaucracy but is questioning some of the specific proposals in its announcement yesterday (March 19th).

The Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman MP, said that environmental regulation will be made simpler and more effective by cutting red tape and that the proposals were supported by business.

However UKELA’s view is that some of the recommendations are unnecessary or may cause environmental problems. 3,500 individuals and organisations commented on the proposals, many asking for things to be left as they are if they worked to protect the environment. Also, proper enforcement of existing regulation, would address some of the issues raised.

Given the complexity of the Red Tape Challenge report UKELA has not had time to consider all the recommendations, although it is preparing its own report on “The state of Environmental Law in 2011/12” which will be published in May. This will echo some of the Red Tape Challenge’s aims of making legislation more coherent, transparent and accessible.

However UKELA has some initial comments on waste which indicate that further consideration of how to improve matters is needed:

· The proposal to introduce an electronic recording system for waste transfer notes is unlikely to produce any real practical benefits, as transfer notes can already be produced in electronic form.

· Simplifying the guidance on hazardous waste won’t necessarily improve things, as simplified and reduced guidance is more open to argument over what it means, although Defra has made clear it aims to secure improvement by consulting on this to ensure as much clarity as possible

· Opening up civic amenity sites and kerbside collections to small and medium sized businesses is going to put increased pressure on those facilities, as well as potentially putting private sector contractors at a competitive disadvantage.

· Exempting more businesses from battery producer responsibility obligations is unlikely to have no impact on recycling rates. If anything, it will reduce recycling rates.

· Poor and inconsistent enforcement and a lack of prosecutions are not good reasons for abolishing the Site Waste Management Plans Regulations. The Government should be looking at how it can improve enforcement and work with the construction industry to improve the treatment of construction waste.

UKELA welcomes the opportunity to comment further to ensure that any changes really do make the law work for a better environment.

Notes to the editors:

Further information on UKELA’s project looking at the State of Environmental Law can be found here:


Government announcement:


UK Environmental Law Association - Better law for the environment
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