The Government’s proposal for a post-Brexit environmental watchdog that only has jurisdiction for England is deeply flawed, says the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).
For the watchdog to have teeth to hold any government to account…, it needs to be a trans-national body that covers the UK. An England-only governance body will not provide the same level of environmental protection and citizen’s rights as the current protection under EU directives which cross boundaries, according to the RTPI’s response to DEFRA’s consultation.
For the watchdog to have teeth to hold any government to account and ‘not be effectively the pet’ of any one national parliament or assembly, it needs to be a trans-national body that covers the UK and agreed unanimously by the four nations, the RTPI says. Continued trade relations with the EU may also be jeopardised if the UK cannot demonstrate sound environmental principles and governance as a whole, it adds.
The RTPI is also concerned that the proposed body does not have the ability to impose fines, saying this is inconsistent with the Government’s professed claim for it to be a ‘world leading independent statutory body’.
Richard Blyth, RTPI’s Head of Policy and Research, said:
‘What the Government is proposing is not a replacement of equal value to what we have now. It is opening the UK to a future of lower standards and inconsistences, which will not only cause immense problems for our trade partners, but also businesses and consumers domestically. It is very regrettable the Government has pressed on unilaterally with the consultation for an independent environment watchdog for England alone, when it should have put on the table a common framework of principles and enforcement actions that applies across the UK.’
DEFRA’s consultation on the development of an Environmental Principles and Governance Bill ends on 2 August.