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Defra unveils plan for cleaner, healthier environment

Defra publishes five-year plan for ‘delivering a cleaner, healthier environment benefitting people and the economy’

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has confirmed its £2 billion budget for 2015/16 and set out its priorities over the course of the current parliament.

Defra's Nobel House headquarters in London

Defra’s Nobel House headquarters in Westminster, London

Defra said its five-year departmental plan from 2015-2020 – released late last week (February 19) – would ‘deliver a cleaner, healthier environment benefitting people and the economy’.

The plan describes Defra’s objectives for this Parliament and how it is fulfilling commitments made to the public, while also outlining how the Department intends to allocate its £2 billion annual budget through a range of air quality, agriculture, flood and environmental protection policies.

After last year agreeing to cut its spending, Defra said it would “integrate policy making with our delivery activities to reduce duplication while maintaining our reputation for evidence-based policy makingâ€?.

25-year plan

Defra also announced that it will publish a 25-year plan for the environment before the end of the year, establishing a framework for action in the spring setting out the plan’s scope. This plan will establish a series of indicators – including for air quality – to record the Department’s progress.

According to Defra, this 25-year plan will be “supported by better use of data and technology, including by opening up Defra data for public access and through a more intelligent, risk-based approach to monitoring, regulation and enforcementâ€?.

Defra revealed that it will use changes in exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) to measure the progress on its proposed 25-year plan.

NO2 exposure

  Mean exposure (ugm3), 2014
Inner London 35
Outer London 26
Rest of England 16

PM2.5 exposure

  Mean exposure (ugm3), 2014
Inner London 15
Outer London 13
Rest of England 11

These indicators measure the average exposure to pollutants across the population. Data are population-weighted annual mean concentrations (micrograms per cubic metre – ugm3).

It comes amid threat of further legal action against Defra by environmental NGO ClientEarth over the latest air quality plan for the UK – published before Christmas – which pledged to set up ‘Clean Air Zones’ in five UK cities by 2020, among other policies (see AirQualityNews.com story).

Budget savings

Defra had already agreed to cut its day-to-day spending on the environment by 15% (see AirQualityNews.com story), while its spending directly earmarked for improving air quality fell by £500,000 in 2014/15 (see AirQualityNews.com story).

Expanding on this, Defra said it would “save money for the taxpayer and for business by progressively simplifying our licences and other transactionsâ€? by “designing services around the needs of users, making full use of digital technologies and rationalising the underlying ITâ€?.

The departmental plan released on Friday also states that Defra made the “single largest contribution to the previous government’s Red Tape Challengeâ€?.

It adds that “building on this success, Defra is developing a portfolio of projects to support the government’s £10 billion target for reducing regulationâ€? which “aims to save businesses £470 million over the course of the parliamentâ€?.

Related Links:

Defra departmental plan 2015-2020

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