Merging environment agencies would hasten decisions, says government report

A merger of two government environmental protection agencies would in the long term be likely to speed up decision-making for developers, a government report has said.

The comments are contained in a discussion paper recently published by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), which sets out government thinking on its review of the Environment Agency and Natural England.

The review is part of a rolling programme across government to examine non-departmental delivery bodies every three years. In the past, the two agencies have been reviewed separately. But this time they have been reviewed together, with the document making clear that DEFRA sees strong arguments for a merger.

Discussing a potential combination of the two agencies, it says: “This scenario should in time provide a more efficient, effective single body, leading to sustainable swifter decision making for, and lower burdens on, businesses and developers”.

However, it acknowledges that a merger could, in the short to medium term, involve “significant” potential costs and affect incident response capacity. The paper also looks at the pros and cons of keeping the structural arrangements of the agencies as they are.

In a statement, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said that he was looking for changes “that would lead to better results for the environment, economic growth and for people right across England”.

DEFRA said that preliminary conclusions of the review, which applies to England only, would be published in the Spring. They will then be examined by a group chaired by Civil Aviation Authority chair Dame Deirdre Hutton.

The discussion paper can be accessed here:

defra.gov.uk/review-ea-ne/

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