Emma Fenton
16 May 2013

Improved environmental guidance for businesses

"This is not about reducing the quality of environmental regulations. The same protection levels will stay." - Owen Paterson.

May marks the launch of the UK Government's Smarter Regulation Review. UK businesses and the public are being asked to send ideas on how environmental rules and regulations can be drawn together and made easier to locate. This will make it simpler and cheaper for businesses to comply with regulations.

Regulation has an important role to play in improving the environment, and more user-friendly guidance is needed to ensure the requirements of these regulations can be met easily. An outcome of the Red Tape Challenge, these reforms have been cited as having the potential reduce the time spent by businesses by 80%, and could save the UK economy more than £1 billion over the next 10 years.

To help Defra make significant progress on these reforms over the next year they will be asking people give their views online on how guidance and information requirements can be made more straightforward. This is across a number of policy areas including waste, wildlife protection, environmental permits and land management. Defra will also publish draft pieces of guidance and ask for comments on how they can be improved.

The IES encourages all IES members to take part in the debate and help to shape the guidance and regulatory landscape in a way that ensures the decisions taken by Defra are underpinned by sound environmental science.

There will be an initial public feedback exercise which will invite users to comment on existing environmental guidance. This exercise will be open from 15 May to 5 July 2013. There will also be a rolling programme of review for each guidance topic over the next 12 months. A standardised approach has been developed for this review process. For each topic, Defra will carry out an analysis of user needs and take into account relevant comments that we receive through the initial public feedback exercise. We will then produce new entry level guidance and a plan for future content that is needed. Stakeholders will be invited to comment on both new guidance and the plans. Any guidance that is no longer needed will remain available to view as archived material.

Work to reform information obligations will include input from regulators, policy representatives and engagement with the public and business stakeholders. Plans to reform information obligations will be produced in 2014. Public engagement on information obligations will begin on 15 May. The first stage of this engagement will be open until 5 July 2013. This period will allow industry to comment on any reporting type before the challenge sessions begin. Later in the summer, we will publish proposals for reforming information obligations after these proposals have been tested through ‘challenge sessions’. The proposals will be available for comment so that stakeholders have a further opportunity to shape the plans for reform which will be produced during 2014.

In order to have your say on any proposed changes Defra has launched an interactive website where businesses, stakeholders and the public will be asked to give their views on how guidance and information obligations can be made more straightforward. The website will complement targeted offline activities which will seek to include hard-to-reach groups and small and medium-sized businesses.

For more detailed information about the process and to find out how you can be involved in the process see the Smarter Guidance and Data Briefing and the Smarter Guidance and Data Overview.

To offer your views on guidance or data visit the Defra website. You can follow the Defra Regulations team on Twitter: @defraregs.