The long-awaited Environment Act 2021 received royal assent on 9 November 2021 and includes a number of impacts and opportunities for flood risk management authorities (RMAs) in England, including internal drainage boards (IDBs).
Much of the Act now requires regulations to be developed and consulted upon to define the details and to set a date from when the provisions will come into force. ADA has undertaken a full analysis of the Act focusing on its implications for IDBs. A Technical Note has been shared with ADA’s members.
Below is a summary of the key topics for RMAs within the new Act covered by the analysis:
This new public body has been formed to strengthen environmental accountability by holding government and public authorities to account, and to monitor the Government’s progress towards their environmental improvement targets. Members of the public are able to submit complaints online to the OEP concerning alleged failures by public authorities to comply with environmental law.
The Act has provided for changes to be made to modernise the way that land is valued for the purpose of apportioning the costs of IDBs and calculating drainage rates and special levies. This is a change IDBs have called for and ADA has supported.
Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) will be spatial strategies for nature which will plan, map, and agree priorities for nature’s recovery in a given area. LNRS are expected to be led mainly by local authorities but developed and delivered in partnership with a wide range of local stakeholders, including IDBs.
Pubic Authorities are required to actively carry out strategic assessments of the actions they can take to enhance and conserve biodiversity, and then take that action. IDBs already do this through their respective Biodiversity Action Plans.
Public authorities will be expected to cooperate with Natural England in the development and implementation of Protected Site Strategies, and Species Conservation Strategies where they relate to areas under their management (e.g. a SSSI within an internal drainage district), and must have regard for them whilst undertaking their functions.
Where an authority is planning development which will require planning permission, they will be subject to the new biodiversity net gain rules from 2023 including the management of the site to deliver the required outcomes for at least 30 years following project completion. RMAs should also prepare to assess biodiversity gain plans through their consenting functions.
Changes will give the Environment Agency the ability to: revise an abstraction licence to reflect the volume of water that has historically been used, and to revoke a license, if it is deemed that the revision is necessary to protect the environment. IDBs may need to adjust water levels in the future to assist land managers adapting to the consequences of these changes.
Changes will extend producer responsibility for the cost of disposal of products, starting with plastic packaging and require waste to be sorted into and collected separately in waste “streams” that separate out recyclable materials.
Regional Water Resource Management Plans aim to address the balance of water supply and demand. RMAs should actively engage with their local water resource planning partnership in order to put forward their case and contributions to the development of the catchment approach to water resource management.
This will enable landowners to enter into a voluntary but legally binding agreement to assign a particular piece of land to be managed for conservation and the public good. There could be opportunities for local public bodies, such as IDBs, to assist with the management of such land.