The newly-formed Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) has this week launched a consultation on how it intends to carry out its role to protect and improve the environment by holding government and public authorities to account.
Established by the Environment Act, the OEP will work to achieve sustained environmental improvement through better environmental law and improved compliance with those laws.
The organisation has four functions:
- Scrutinising Environmental Improvement Plans and targets
- Scrutinising Environmental Law
- Providing advice to government on environmental law, and other environmental matters
- Investigating suspected serious failures to comply with environmental law by public authorities and enforcing compliance where needed
The OEP’s functions came into effect this week (24 January), meaning the organisation can now publish its draft strategy.
The OEP Chair Dame Glenys Stacey said: “I am delighted to present our draft strategy, setting out how we aim to fulfil the significant role we have in protecting and improving the environment.
We have new and important functions. In fulfilling them, we will act independently, strategically, responsibly and without fear or favour
“We have new and important functions. In fulfilling them, we will act independently, strategically, responsibly and without fear or favour. Our aim will always be to make the best possible difference to the natural environment, and to protect people from the effects of environmental harm.
“I would encourage all those with an interest in the OEP and the environment to take the time to read our draft strategy and respond to our consultation. We genuinely value the knowledge and expertise that can help inform our thinking and approach.”
Also published for consultation this week is the OEP’s draft enforcement policy. This sets out how the organisation will use its powers to receive complaints from the public, conduct investigations and launch court proceedings in response to serious failures by government and public authorities to comply with environmental law.
The OEP’s remit currently covers England and reserved matters, but this could be extended to cover Northern Ireland, subject to agreement by the Northern Ireland Assembly.