Defra Review of the Environment Agency and Natural England

Issue date: 18th December 2012

The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs has announced a public consultation as part of its review of the functions of the Environment Agency and of Natural England. Although heralded as a routine review to check that the functions of both bodies are still necessary and appropriate to be undertaken by arms-length government bodies, there is a clear underlying intent to save on costs and trim the organisations down. 

The coincident timing of the reviews of both bodies is no accident – the main proposals put forward is that the two organisations might be merged together to form a single UK regulator for the countryside and the environment, with periphery activities passed to other sectors where appropriate. This fits well with the Government’s past stated intent that the Agency’s navigation functions should be passed to Canal & River Trust in 2015 subject to agreement on funding, etc – and indeed this is mentioned in the consultation document (paragraph 53). 

Defra says it plans to announce preliminary conclusions in the spring. 

IWA plans to respond to the consultation promptly to remind Government of IWA’s past and on-going support to transfer navigation management of the EA’s current responsibilities to Canal & River Trust, and recommends that waterway users and other waterways organisations should do likewise, as the alternative future under continued EA management seems likely to be one of dwindling resources under continued budget cuts from an organisation more focussed on environmental concerns than recreational users, however committed EA’s present staff are to provide good service.
The review documents can be found on the Defra website