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Environmental Permitting Regulations

Volume 573: debated on Thursday 9 January 2014

9. Whether his Department has any plans to strengthen the enforcement provisions of the 2010 environmental permitting regulations. (901865)

There are no current proposals to alter the enforcement provisions of the 2010 environmental permitting regulations. The 2010 regulations and the Environmental Protection Act 1990 together provide a range of enforcement powers at regulated and illegal sites. I would consider the case for strengthening these or other regulatory provisions if there is evidence that exercising them is proving insufficient in preventing harm to health and the environment.

If the Minister wants evidence, would he like to look at the waste-for-fuel site in my constituency, which has so far had 15 fires in the past two years, at a cost of £568,000 to the fire service and 1,900 hours of firefighters’ time—more than the clear-up cost of removing this rogue operator—and where repeated attempts by the Environment Agency to secure an injunction have so far failed? Will he press the agency to honour its commitment to give my constituents the results of toxicity testing on that site?

I am happy to pass on that request to the Environment Agency. As the hon. Gentleman knows, I have met him and local representatives to consider what is occurring at that site, and subsequently I met the chairman and chief executive of the Environment Agency specifically to talk about how it could intervene earlier on new or untested operators to prevent these vast amounts of material from appearing on sites such as the one in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. As he knows, however, there is an action at the High Court, and there is now a deadline to clear the site by 1 May. The agency will have to respect that in the enforcement action it takes.

The waste gasification plant proposed at the Brookfield site on the edge of Corby is causing great local concern. Will the Minister assure me that any changes to the environmental permitting regulations will not prejudice the proper planning process by allowing a waste permit to be issued in advance of planning consent being received?

As I believe the hon. Gentleman is aware, we have been consulting on how the planning and permitting processes can be better aligned. If he would like to raise with me specific problems regarding that potential development, I would be happy to hear from him by letter.