The government recently published its Environmental Improvement Plan 2023 (EIP). This plan builds on a vision that was set out 5 years ago. The EIP contains new powers and duties from the Environment Act, Agriculture Act and Fisheries Act and seeks to provide a comprehensive delivery plan for the government’s goal of halting and then reversing the decline in nature.
The Environmental Improvement Plan 2023 aims to restore nature and improve the environmental quality of the air, our waters and our land. The plans are distilled into ten broad goals which were agreed at the UN Nature Summit COP15 in December 2022.
The headline announcements from the government include the following:
On publishing the Environmental Improvement Plan, Rishi Sunak and Therese Coffey stated that it would act as a blueprint in the government’s commitment to leaving the environment in a better state than we found it. The government has set some broad targets; however, the detail will need when additional legislation, policy, and guidance is published. For example:
We will shortly be seeing more information in relation to BNG. The government has stated that it will: “…commence the Biodiversity Net Gain condition for planning permissions from November 2023 to support nature recovery and the Nature Recovery Network.” We are expecting secondary legislation and further guidance to be issued during the summer. This will make for interesting reading, and we will keep this under review and report on further developments.
The government is currently consulting on its new system of EORs. These reports will form a new system of environmental assessment and it is stated that they will replace SEA and EIA. It is intended that these reports will seek to ensure that decision makers know whether a plan or project contributes to the government’s environmental targets, and it is intended to be a more streamlined process.
The consultation seeks views on the government’s proposal to introduce “outcomes” via secondary legislation, which a plan or project will have to report against. The government will provide, via guidance, a set of “indicators” which will inform whether an outcome is met. The report would need to consider how the plan or project contributed to the delivery of an outcome and, more specifically, how it met the terms of the specific indicators.
These outcomes and indicators will no doubt draw upon the detail set out in the Environmental Improvement Plan 2023. This consultation closed on 9 June 2023, and is well worth considering further as the proposed approach will have a significant bearing on future development projects.
Within the Environmental Improvement Plan, the government has set out some, at times, far-reaching proposals. However, they are short on detail. How they will be delivered remains unclear.
The slow progress made with BNG and EORs is indicative of the problems faced by the government in delivering its agenda. It will be interesting to see how these issues develop in the coming months. In the meantime, we will report further as the government’s net-zero target continues to be pursued.
These issues are likely to feed into changes to both the planning and environmental regimes. We are likely to see changes to issues including permitting; producer responsibility; disposal of waste; increased emphasis on air quality; and a push from the government for these issues to be given more weight in the planning system.
Our Environment Team are experienced in all aspects of environmental law and we’re always making sure we’re up to date on the latest developments at a national level, as well as advising on the complexity of European law in the context of Brexit. This helps us to anticipate what you may need in the future, so that we can help you prepare and adapt your business to comply with new legislation. Please call Josh or Katie and they will be happy to help.