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Regulation is a question of balance

Our regulated sector has a pretty good record when it comes to pollution. While four-fifths of all Environment Agency (EA) permits relate to waste or landfill sites, they accounted for less than half of the 240 serious environmental incidents at permitted sites last year. But, as we report, there are no grounds for complacency because waste was one of the few sectors to record an increase (from 75 to 101).

The details from this tightly regulated regime were included in an EA report this week, published 24 hours after former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine made national headlines with a report into getting growth back into the economy.

Tucked away was a quote from this respected Tory elder designed to take the wind from the sails of those who think that removing rules and regulation en bloc is a cure-all.

Heseltine said: “I reject the notion that regulation in itself hinders growth. Good, well-designed regulation can stop the abuse of market power and improve the way markets work to the benefit of business employees and consumers.”

That is not to say that unnecessary constraints should not be ditched. Defra’s ‘Red Tape Challenge’, looking to boost the economy by £1bn over five years by cutting the amount of regulation, identified 16 areas for action, including the Landfill Allowances Trading Scheme. The follow-up Smarter Environmental Regulation Review, targeting longer-term options for regulatory reform, is due to go to ministers by the end of the year.

As with most things in life, it’s a question of balance.

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