Red Tape Challenge includes air quality legislation

Announcing in March 2012 the results of a consultation on the environment section of the Red Tape Challenge, environment secretary of state Caroline Spelman denied that the changes would be about “rolling back environmental safeguards” but instead claimed the policy was “about getting better rules, not weaker ones.”

The secretary of state said that “the results of the Red Tape Challenge will be good for the environment and good for business, because as well as upholding environmental protection we will remove unnecessary bureaucracy to allow businesses to free up resources to invest in growth.”

Environment secretary Caroline Spelman has said air pollution legislation will change

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said soundings were taken on the environment part of the Red Tape Challenge last year and overall of 255 regulations, “132 will be improved, mainly through simplification or consolidation; 70 will be kept as they are, to uphold important environmental protections; and 53 obsolete regulations will be removed. There will also be a new drive to introduce smarter implementation on the ground.”

Within the proposals there is an environment theme with a wide range of proposals, including several under the heading ‘Air Quality and Industrial Emissions.”

The department said that respondents had said that “air quality legislation should be simplified and that action to improve air quality should be taken by those with relevant powers to address the key issues. You also said that the Clean Air Act is out of date and certain smoke control regulations are no longer needed.”

In response to the consultation feedback, Defra said it agreed that air quality legislation needed “an overhaul”. It continued: “Over the next year we will review the impact of existing legislation, including the Clean Air Act, and then consult on our findings. We will look to reduce burdens on business and local authorities by:

  • Focusing local air quality requirements on those that are essential to ensure compliance with EU targets.
  • Reviewing the role and responsibilities of local authorities to help ensure that action is taken by those with relevant powers to address the key issues (e.g. transport emissions).
  • Reviewing the role of transport measures in meeting air quality targets, including the consistency in approach across local areas. In taking this forward Defra will work closely with other relevant departments, especially the Department for Transport and Department of Health.
  • Reviewing the Clean Air Act and associated regulations to identify which measures are redundant and which can be modernised to help local authorities meet EU air quality targets and help reduce costs for businesses.
  • The first merger of smoke control regulations will come into force in April.
  • Consolidating Air Quality Standards Regulations to simplify the regulatory landscape.

Additionally, Defra said it would work with the Department of Health and directors of public health to raise awareness about the health impacts of air pollution and change behaviours in areas such as transport and biomass burning to improve air quality. And, the Environment Agency is also to provide further information about industrial sites to the public via its website.

Working in partnership with other Member States, the Red Tape Challenge document says that the UK will use the European Commission review of air quality legislation, expected in 2013, to seek:

  • Amendments to the Air Quality Directive which reduce the infraction risk faced by most Member States, especially in relation to nitrogen dioxide provisions.
  • Simplifications to the legal framework (e.g. through reducing requirements for Member States) to reduce costs and administrative burdens to local authorities and businesses whilst maintaining or improving health and ecosystem protection.
  • Requirements that are strictly proportional to evidence on costs and benefits.

Related links
Red Tape Challenge Defra