Last reviewed 5 January 2021
The Government has launched a new “online” system for registering complaints against public bodies suspected of failing to meet environmental law.
The Environmental Governance Secretariat (IEGS) will provide a temporary service to deal with complaints about alleged failures of public bodies to comply with environmental law.
The Government had originally intended to set up the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) by 1 January 2021 to take on these responsibilities, but the Environment Bill, through which the OEP is being created, has been delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Under the temporary scheme, members of the public will still be able to complain to the IEGS about failures by public authorities to comply with legal requirements in areas such as, the protection of air or water quality, nature conservation, or the management of waste.
A “public authority” is defined in the Environment Bill as a person carrying out any function of a public nature, such as central and local government, government agencies and other public sector organisations. Private or third sector organisations that are carrying out functions of a public nature are also included. Certain public bodies such as a court or tribunal, or Parliament are specifically excluded from the IEGS complaints service.
The interim IEGS will be under the guidance and leadership of both the newly appointed Office for Environmental Protection Chair-designate, Dame Glenys Stacey, and the other Board members, once they have been appointed, to ensure an effective transition of IEGS services to the OEP.
The OEP will be established and operational as soon as possible following Royal Assent of the Environment Bill and is expected to be fully functioning by the summer, with powers to scrutinise environmental policy and law, investigate complaints and take enforcement action against public authorities.
The OEP will also monitor government progress against the 25 Year Environment Plan, continuing activities previously undertaken by the Natural Capital Committee.