European Union: Big Ambitions Seen In 25 Year Environment Plan

Last Updated: 2 August 2018
Article by Helen Bowdren and Gurbinder Grewal

The government's 25 Year Plan for the Environment may be light on new legal obligations but it does provide useful pointers to possible future policy developments. Net environmental gain might become mandatory, warns Helen Bowdren in her article for Construction Law.

Bats, badgers and newts. These can sometimes be the most urgent, and disruptive, environmental issues for construction companies. But a whole host of other green issues – such as waste and resources, contaminated materials, energy efficiency, sustainability and biodiversity – can also impact on timing and costs for construction projects.

Which is why the industry should be interested in the government's 25 Year Plan for the Environment. Published in January 2018, the plan sets out the government's plans for the environment for the next generation. Significant regulatory change could be on the cards following Brexit in March 2019, so the plan is highly relevant and timely.

The 25 year plan is big on ambition although light on legal obligations. Nonetheless it provides some useful pointers on how the government's policy may develop in this area.

Key points for the construction sector

Key points for the construction sector include:

  • Focus on 'net environmental gain' from developments – which could become mandatory.
  • A new environmental regulatory body for the United Kingdom (to replace the role currently played by the European Union in enforcing environmental law against member states).
  • Continued focus on waste and resource efficiency – with a target to eliminate all avoidable waste by 2050.
  • Big changes in agricultures – including leaving the Common Agricultural Policy and paying farmers public money for 'public good' such as environmental enhancement.

Why we need a new plan – and why now

The majority of the UK's environmental law derives from European Union law. The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will ensure that the body of existing EU environmental law continues to bind the UK, at least in the short term, after Brexit.

In the longer term however, the government could in theory move away from European law – and the plan provides the best indication so far of the government's thinking in this area.

Areas covered by the plan

The plan covers all areas of environmental policy, including:

  • waste reduction and resource efficiency;
  • clean air;
  • water;
  • climate change; and
  • biodiversity.

It is intended to be an evolving document, with reviews every five years.

'Net Environmental Gain' from development

The plan proposes a concept of 'net environmental gain', where new developments would need to show a positive impact on the local or national environment (including wildlife, green space provision and air and water quality). A key question for planners would be whether a development gives a boost to 'natural capital'.

Natural capital includes all elements of nature that bring value to people and the country, for example providing us with food, clean air and water, wildlife, energy, recreation and protection from hazards. The concept is similar to other forms of capital such as financial, social, human and intellectual capital, although it is notoriously hard to quantify.

The planning system currently requires biodiversity net gains 'where possible'. The government may strengthen this requirement for local planning authorities (LPAs) to ensure environmental net gains across their areas, and will consult on making this mandatory (including any exemptions that may be necessary). It will be interesting to see how this fits with the government's ambitions for a major increase in housebuilding (300k extra homes a year by the middle of the next decade) and infrastructure investment.

Agriculture and land use

Brexit also means the UK leaving the Common Agricultural Policy – and this will lead to a huge shake up for the agricultural sector.

A new land management system

The plan proposes a new land management system featuring incentives to encourage land managers to restore and improve natural capital, calling for an approach to land use that puts the environment first. These might include:  new funding and delivery mechanisms, private payments for eco-system services, reverse auctions and conservation covenants. All complex to deal with on development projects.

Defra consultation

Defra has launched a consultation seeking views on the options for gradual phase out of direct payments and the range of public goods that could qualify for government funding under the new schemes, such as high animal welfare standards, wildlife protection, public access, and new technologies. The consultation closed 8 May 2018.

A new regulator

The government will consult in 2018 on setting up a new environmental body. This is intended to be an independent, statutory body to champion and uphold environmental standards as we leave the EU – it will be tasked with holding the government to account.

The enforcement function

We don't yet know much more detail or how its enforcement function might operate. It may deal with infringements via negotiation rather than a full complaints procedure, turning to the Supreme Court for the final say over which claims can be heard in court. A change in law will be required to create such a body and – in my view – it is unlikely to be in place prior to March 2019.

Building materials

Aside from a brief mention to mineral-based building materials, the plan does not explore house building materials in detail, though it does aim for higher environmental standards and greater resilience in new builds.

Home grown timber

The plan notes the government's plan to increase the amount of home grown timber used in England in construction. It also focuses on resource efficiency such as management of residual waste, more efficient water use, and reduced energy usage and carbon footprint of the UK's housing stock.

Eliminating avoidable waste

The plan sets targets to eliminate all avoidable waste by 2050, and all avoidable plastic waste by 2042. In the building sector, this could mean changes to landfill tax, recycling targets and the aggregates levy to incentivise reuse of materials where possible.

Devolution

Environmental issues are a 'devolved matter' – which means the national governments in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales already have powers to legislate on environmental matters. Even before Brexit this has led to changes in environmental policy across borders. This may become more acute after Brexit without EU law to provide common standards and rules. Construction companies operating across several of the home nations should expect additional complexity in dealing with separate regimes and regulators.

Energy efficiency

Perhaps surprisingly, the plan does not explore energy efficiency in housing in any depth. That said, the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards regime is already in force and is likely to continue unchanged – it is now unlawful to grant new leases for low energy efficiency properties (those rated F or G on an EPC) and this is already incentivising significant change.

This article was first published by Construction Law on 2 July 2018. You can subscribe to the Construction Law journal by clicking here.

Dentons is the world's first polycentric global law firm. A top 20 firm on the Acritas 2015 Global Elite Brand Index, the Firm is committed to challenging the status quo in delivering consistent and uncompromising quality and value in new and inventive ways. Driven to provide clients a competitive edge, and connected to the communities where its clients want to do business, Dentons knows that understanding local cultures is crucial to successfully completing a deal, resolving a dispute or solving a business challenge. Now the world's largest law firm, Dentons' global team builds agile, tailored solutions to meet the local, national and global needs of private and public clients of any size in more than 125 locations serving 50-plus countries. www.dentons.com.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Events from this Firm
11 Dec 2018, Seminar, London, UK

We are delighted to invite you to our breakfast seminar and Q&A forum on the people aspects of Brexit.

11 Dec 2018, Seminar, An Nijmegen, Netherlands

We are delighted to invite you to our breakfast seminar and Q&A forum on the people aspects of Brexit.

 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions