Defra’s Triennial Review proposes to merge Natural England and the Environment Agency.
Defra is inviting anyone with an interest in Natural England and the Environment Agency to respond by 4th February 2013 to a discussion paper which proposes to merge the two agencies. This follows considerable cuts to Natural England’s funding in the Coalition government’s first Comprehensive Spending Review, and the removal of the agency’s power to make policy. The Coalition government has also already cut 27% of Environment Agency funding, stopping 294 planned flood prevention schemes from going ahead – including one at Walsden Water.
Defra’s merger proposal may be of interest to members of Ban the Burn!, who have recently followed the RSPB’s example and submitted a formal complaint to the European Commission about Natural England’s apparent failure to properly enforce wildlife and habitat protection laws on the Walshaw Moor Estate Ltd.
Defra’s discussion paper sets the proposal to merge the two agencies in the context of Defra’s reorientation to focus on “growing our economy”, and defines the environment in terms of “natural capital”. It states that
“The challenge for our public bodies must be to meet their environmental obligations while looking at innovative ways to reduce the burden that this may sometimes place on business.”
“Businesses working with the bodies will be looking for ongoing service improvement, increased efficiencies and swift decision making, particularly around development.”
So, not-so-subtle code for a reduction in the powers of the two agencies to protect the natural environment as a common resource, and an increase in the power of businesses to use the natural environment as a source of profit.
However, the discussion paper gives a nod to the needs of society – it is seeking
“better outcomes…for Society by improving access to the services provided to customers and the public, working effectively with stakeholders and communities at the local level, and recognising the connections between high quality environmental services and public well-being.”
Defra says to use their pro-forma (together with any other supporting information you wish to submit) and email responses to EA-NEreview@defra.gsi.gov.uk, or send them by post to Triennial Review Team, Defra, Area 6D Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London SW1P 3JR.