Last reviewed 17 November 2020

The Environment Agency (EA) has released new information on its regulatory enforcement priorities and how it intends to function during the current lockdown.

The EA says it will remain fully operational during the lockdown with some staff working from home and frontline teams working on the ground tackling priority issues such as flood risk and pollution.

Staff undertaking regulatory work, such as compliance and enforcement, will continue to work as normal, including physical inspections of sites and operations, as well as remote data gathering and analysis.

Regulatory enforcement

The regulator’s approach to regulation and enforcement is available from the Agency’s websites here alongside more specific information of temporary regulatory position statements (RPSs), during the coronavirus outbreak.

RPSs, which, under certain circumstances, allow some activities to be carried out without complying with a particular regulatory requirement, will continue in most cases. Some RPS’s have been extended or replaced with new RPSs and some have now expired. Those businesses whose activities are subject to RPS are advised by the EA to check their status for details of any changes.

The Agency insists that coronavirus is not an excuse to operate illegally and says investigations into environmental offending will continue and any avoidable non-compliance will be dealt with appropriately. Further guidance on regulation and enforcement guidance are available here.

Permit applications

The difficulty for some businesses is the delay in having their permit applications approved. The EA has apologised for the delays, saying the pandemic has reduced its ability to determine permit and licence applications, but adds that the process is improving and that new permit applications are now a priority over reviewing existing permits.

Other work

Flood defence work together with flood warning systems are continuing, with the priority to protect lives and livelihoods of those in most at-risk communities. If repairs to major infrastructure assets are disrupted by the impact of coronavirus, temporary mitigation for the risk will be put in place, pending a full repair.

Full details of the EA’s work programme during the current lockdown are available here.