An article in today’s Guardian wrongly claims that the Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, Sir James Bevan, has “endorsed a proposal to water down laws on the cleanliness of polluted rivers, lakes and coastlines after Brexit”.
This is inaccurate and misleading.
Sir James gave a speech (‘In praise of red tape’) about environmental regulation and how it can be used to achieve the best possible outcomes for our environment, including the health of our rivers.
In this speech he said that regulation:
- is essential to protect the environment.
- works, which is why many of our rivers are cleaner than at any time since the Industrial Revolution
- needs teeth, including in tackling water companies which pollute our waters. He cited the £20m fine the Environment Agency secured against Thames Water.
- should aim to enhance not just protect the environment.
He used the example of altering the Water Framework Directive (WFD) to encourage debate about how to better and more innovatively measure the health of our rivers so we can improve them.
He also made clear that the test of any changes should be better environmental outcomes. To claim that he was arguing to weaken laws on the cleanliness of polluted rivers is completely false.
We have recently blogged about the work the Environment Agency and Defra are carrying out to protect our rivers and waterways. In this, we explain why storm overflows are used, and only used, when absolutely necessary, and the action that is taken against water companies that breach their environmental permits.