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Agency sets out performance approach to regulation

The Environment Agency (EA) has launched an informal consultation on a performance-based approach to sites regulated under the Environmental Permitting Regulations (EPR).

The EA says a regime based on outcomes rather than rules would yield social, environmental and economic benefits by recognising positive and responsible behaviours.

It notes that some regulators, such as the Civil Aviation Authority, are switching their approach from compliance to performance to realise benefits and opportunities for their customers.

The Regulatory Futures Review, published in January 2017, suggested that significant improvements in operational efficiency could be found by sharing good practice between regulators and developing more collaborative working models, and that this would help achieve ambitious spending review targets.

The bands proposed as part of the agency’s switch from the operator risk appraisal scheme are:

  • Expected: the standard for all sites to meet through concise, accessible and reliable advice and guidance. Self-reporting would be encouraged and the operator’s approach to addressing minor incidents would be recognised
  • Exemplary: the standard for operators whose behaviour and compliance record show that regulatory effort can be reduced
  • Improvement needed/Significant improvement needed: If an operator displays unresponsive, obstructive, abusive or hostile behaviour, such as poor complaint handling, persistent non-payment of fees, unsatisfactory community engagement or unwillingness to comply, then the site would be in one of the two bands. Such a site could expect enforcement or remediation action

The EA said: “For business it would further support a level playing field, and we could recognise and reward those that voluntarily go beyond compliance. For local communities it recognises the importance of positive public engagement, making them feel better protected, informed and reassured.

“Operator behaviour and, specifically, negative behaviour is something which impacts on legitimate businesses within a sector, the local community and also the health, safety and wellbeing of our staff.

”A performance-based framework gives us an opportunity to clearly set out expectations of operator behaviour, and would also enable us to recognise positive behaviours.”

The EA says it will formally consult on performance band proposals in the summer. In the meantime, an informal engagement is open until 26 May.

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