Environment Strategy PlanningThe consultation seeks views on the new regulator’s plans, which set out how it will protect and improve the environment by holding public authorities to account.

The draft strategy defines what the OEP considers to be a “public authority” and this includes the government, government agencies, local authorities and similar organisations, and private companies carrying out public functions (e.g. water companies). It also sets out four strategic objectives: sustained environmental improvement; better environmental law that is better implemented; improved compliance with environmental law; and organisational excellence and influence.

The strategy states that the OEP will seek to achieve these objectives by scrutinising Environmental Improvement Plans and targets set by the government, scrutinising environmental law, advising the government on proposed changes to environmental law, and enforcement. The OEP will have a number of enforcement powers available, including powers to conduct investigations, to issue decision notices in respect of failures, and to launch proceedings in the High Court for serious failures. The draft enforcement policy sets out that the OEP will consider whether failures are “serious”, by taking into account harm or potential harm to the natural environment or to human health associated with the failure and whether this amounts to serious damage.

The consultation closes on 22 March 2022, and we will report further when the OEP publishes its response.

This update is part of the January 2022 edition of our frESH Law Horizons newsletter.