Agenda item

Environment Act

Committee to receive a high-level presentation to set out the headline implications of the Act and what we know so far. Officer Dominic Lamb, Climate and Biodiversity Team Leader, will present the item.


Councillor Amos Duveen joined the meeting during the item.


The Climate and biodiversity Team Leader introduced the item, and provided a high-level presentation which introduced the act and provided wider context into the aspects covered under the legislation. The officer focused on waste and resource efficiency, air quality, and nature and biodiversity. The officer also confirmed that they would be seeking to make this a standing item to ensure the committee received further updates as the legislation progressed.


For waste and resource efficiency, the act would see greater producer responsibility for all levels of waste in the hierarchy, and those producing the packaging would pay for the cost of recycling and disposing of any waste. Confirmation was given that the act would have an impact on how councils across the country would organise waste collection services, however the committee was informed that housing and environment would lead on the response for this section of the act. As the implications were not yet known, the committee would receive further briefings as further guidance and regulations were published.


For air quality, the government was looking to set air quality targets for fine particulate matter in ambient air. There would be an amendment to part four of the Environment Act 1995 which would strengthen the requirements of the national air quality strategy. In addition, amendments to the Local Air Quality Management Framework would enable greater cooperation with relevant bodies. Finally, an amendment to part three of the Cleaner Air Act 1993 would enable quicker and more proportional enforcement of smoke controlled areas.


For nature and biodiversity, objectives would be introduced requiring public bodies to conserve and enhance biodiversity in their exercising of functions. A mandated ten per cent biodiversity net gain would be introduced in the planning system, with exceptions for householder applications and urgent crown development. They were expecting this to come into force in November 2023. For planning applications, it was confirmed that all off-site gains would be recorded on the register, and all off-site gains would need to be maintained for a minimum of 30 years. Public bodies were also expected to look at their policies at least every five years in order to assess their actions and see how they could further improve conservation and enhancement of biodiversity.


The committee asked whether developers could place the biodiversity net-gain in another district or county across the country under the new legislation or if there were any rules in place to encourage the benefit to be on the site of the application. The response from the officer were that checks, and balances would be in-place, and that the assessment matrix had a multiplier based on distance, and so the further away the net-gain was from the application site, the greater the financial cost to the developer. The officer also confirmed that during the infancy of the bill, the government would act as a service provider of last resort.


The committee asked whether the council could set up its own biodiversity bank and insist on payments from developers being paid into their own system. The response from the officer was that the council could introduce its own biodiversity bank, but would have to consider establishing their own commercial vehicle to enable it to work, and would not be able to force a developer to use their own commercial wing.


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