ADA responds to Defra Environmental Principles and Governance Consultation

ADA responds to Defra Environmental Principles and Governance Consultation

In November 2017, Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, announced an intention to consult on a new independent body that would hold government to account for upholding environmental standards in England following the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union. In May this year Defra issued the consultation asking views on: the functions of any new body, which principles should underpin environmental policy, and how these should be embedded into law.

ADA has responded to this consultation. The key points from our response can be read below.



ADA’s is interested in ensuring that England retains robust and effective environmental accountability once the United Kingdom leaves the European Union and that its governance is based on sound principles.

In ADA’s opinion, we need to ensure that the application of any principles applied to future policy-making are appropriate to England’s future circumstances, and much will depend on the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU. Such principles should be set out in the content of any future bill to be put before parliament.

The existing environmental principles used to guide and shape modern environmental law are accepted. However, ADA is concerned that the precautionary principle has been used, in some instances, to either justify an approach to, or prevent, a potentially harmful activity by considering only its hazard, without sufficient consideration of either its scale, probability or duration of that hazard, or indeed any probable environmental benefits.

Therefore, ADA would support a further proportionality principle, to be listed within the Bill, taking account of factors, such as the severity of risk, scale of exposure, probability, and duration, as well as the importance of the environmental issue.


New environmental body

ADA considers that the case for a new environmental body has been insufficiently made by the Government and the cost and effort would be better spent towards enhancing environmental delivery. Greater clarity is needed that such a body would not overlap with or duplicate the powers, duties and functions of existing bodies.

However, if such a body were to be created, ADA considers that:

  • it may scrutinise and advise the government in relation to extant environmental law,
  • it should not be given powers to take legal proceedings against the government,
  • it should be able to scrutinise, advise and report on the delivery of key environmental policies, such as the 25 Year Environment Plan,
  • its powers to hold the government to account for non-compliance should only apply to central government and not agencies, other bodies, or local authorities, as existing accountability regimes and departmental oversight should provide this,
  • it should be able to advise on national planning policy, such as the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), but not directly local planning authorities,
  • it should not have a remit or powers to respond to, or investigate, complaints from members of the public, as there are already a number of existing routes by which such complaints may be made,
  • in tabling any draft Bill that includes provision for a new environmental body, the government should complete and publish both a detailed gap analysis of environmental governance mechanisms and a detailed impact assessment.


Download: ADA’s full response to Defra’s Environmental Principles and Governance consultation