Press release

Environment regulations under the red tape spotlight

It will focus on 287 environmental regulations that apply to businesses, covering issues such as waste, emissions and wildlife protection.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Businesses up and down the country are being invited to contribute ideas on how the Government can cut red tape and regulatory burdens without affecting its responsibilities to protect the environment.

For the next three weeks the Red Tape Challenge (RTC) will be focusing on the 287 environmental regulations that apply to businesses, covering issues such as waste, emissions and wildlife protection.

The RTC asks whether existing regulations are providing the environmental protection that is intended and should therefore be retained, or if they are unnecessarily burdensome or redundant and should be scrapped.

People are also being asked for suggestions on how regulations could be simplified to make them easier to follow and more effective, or if an environmental aim could be better achieved through an alternative non-regulatory way. Environmental policies often aim to encourage people to act in certain ways - and overly complex, burdensome regulation may not be the best way to do this.  Simplifying regulations and removing burdens will also benefit the economy by saving businesses millions in unnecessary costs.

Environment Minister Jim Paice said:

“This is not about reducing our standards. Regulation has an important role to play in protecting the environment and our natural resources, but some of the rules we ask businesses to follow are either too complicated, ineffective or just obsolete. The Red Tape Challenge is a chance to tell us how we can protect the environment in a more effective and simpler way that puts fewer burdens on businesses.

“There are also other ways of providing environmental protection that don’t require regulation, which is why we want to hear ideas for doing things differently without affecting our responsibilities to the natural world.”

Energy and Climate Change minister, Charles Hendry said:

“Avoiding dangerous climate change is crucial to our long-term economic success and quality of life and there is no intention to draw back from our climate change commitments.  Quite the opposite, if we are going to tackle climate change we must work with industry to reduce our emissions. It is vital that we make sure our regulations are supporting that effort, not undermining it with red-tape that is ineffective, burdensome or unnecessary.”

Business Minister Mark Prisk said:

“This Government is determined to reduce the burdens that businesses face every day, and these include those relating to things like waste and emissions and other environmental issues.

“Firms are best placed to understand the effect these regulations can have on the day to day running of a business and I hope they can give us an honest and frank appraisal of where improvements can be made, without compromising the protection that the regulations were designed to provide.

“The Red Tape Challenge has already been used to highlight a number of ways in which compliance problems are getting in the way of businesses, and we want to hear the different views on which environmental regulations can be simplified, improved or scrapped.”

Robert Hunt, Executive Director of at Veolia Environmental Services and sector champion for the environment theme, said:

“Protecting the environment and the natural resources it provides are essential for economic growth. Whilst we all know that industry needs proper regulation; overcomplicated rules, Red Tape and unnecessary bureaucracy can have the opposite effect.  The Red Tape Challenge is an opportunity to put this right - to reduce the amount of unnecessary, overcomplicated regulation that hampers business and make it easier for everyone to do what is needed to protect the environment properly. This is a unique chance for businesses to tell Government which regulations are working, which are not or if there are better and easier ways of achieving the same results.”

Defra is already making progress in simplifying and reducing the number of our regulations, but there is scope for more through the Red Tape Challenge. Examples of environmental regulations that are already being simplified or scrapped include:

  • Reporting grey squirrel sightings - The Grey Squirrels (Prohibition of Importation and Keeping) Order 1937, part of the Destructive Imported Animals Act 1932, makes it a criminal offence for a land owner not to notify Defra of the presence of grey squirrels. The regulation is clearly out-dated and is being scrapped under the Repeals Bill.
  • Environmental permits - The number of permits businesses require for things such as waste, pollution control and groundwater use have been rationalised so that a site needs only to apply for a single permit. By cutting red tape and admin costs the move will save businesses £121m over 10 years and make it easier for regulators to enforce environmental protection at the sites.
  • Contaminated land guidance - Statutory guidance exists that is supposed to explain to when land contaminated by past industrial activity needs to be remediated. However, the guidance is overly complicated which means businesses and developers face expensive clean-ups that create a burden for the housing industry, put extra costs on homebuyers and fail to achieve the intended environmental benefit. We plan to simplify the guidance to clarify when remediation is needed and how to ensure land is decontaminated to a high standard.

Some examples of the areas we are inviting ideas on for simplifying regulation or alternative ways of achieving the same, or better, environmental outcomes are:

  • How businesses could work together on voluntary labeling systems to help consumers to make comparisons between products, such as on energy consumption.
  • Whether regulations could be combined to reduce the burden on local authorities and businesses, such as the Air Quality Regulations 2002 and Air Quality Standards Regulations 2010.
  • Further ways of simplifying regulations, such as the recent removal of requirements on packaging waste reprocessors to produce an independent audit report which saved £300,000 per year in costs.
  • Ways of improving the transparency of environmental data without the need for regulation.


The environment theme will be in the spotlight on the Red Tape Challenge website for three weeks beginning today. People can leave comments about environmental regulation here

A blog from our sector champion, Robert Hunt, can also be read on the Red Tape Challenge website.

The Department of Energy & Climate Change will be lead on the Energy theme which will be under the spotlight from 25 November this year.

Published 1 September 2011