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The Interim Environmental Protection Assessor for Wales (IEPAW) oversees the functioning of environmental law in Wales and provides advice to Welsh Ministers to improve environmental outcomes.
The IEPAW intends to publish quarterly updates on the progress of their work. This is the first of these updates.
Senedd CCEI Committee report
The Senedd Committee on Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure (CCEI) published their report on the Operation of the Interim Environmental Protection Measures on 28 September 2022. This followed an evidence session with the IEPAW on 30 June 2022. The report made a series of recommendations, primarily aimed towards the Welsh Government. These included:
- A request for details about the longer-term plans for environmental governance
- A call for an urgent review into IEPAW resources
- Proposals about the government’s approach to responding to IEPAW reports
- A request for details on the plans for evaluating the interim measures.
The Committee also made a couple of recommendations for the IEPAW. These related to increasing public awareness of the role and transparency around the work of the IEPAW. The IEPAW will provide a response to the Committee setting out the specific actions she will take in response to their recommendations by early November.
Update on submissions received by the IEPAW
Since April 2022, four submissions have been received relating to the following issues:
- The protection of protected sites in Wales
- Concerns about a local planning decision
- Water quality
- Possible contamination by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
Of these four submissions, one was deemed to be outside the scope. The IEPAW is considering what action may be warranted in relation to the other three submissions.
Future work programme - reports
The IEPAW is working on her first report on forestry with the aim of publishing shortly. The report will focus on tree preservation orders, the forestry act, and related issues.
The IEPAW recently issued a call for evidence on hedgerow protection and management which closed at the end of September. This followed a panel discussion on this issue during the 2022 Royal Welsh Show. The IEPAW intends use this evidence to inform a report on whether the Hedgerow Regulations 1997 meet their stated aim of protecting hedgerows effectively.
The IEPAW is looking to start work on a report on the use of civil sanctions in environmental law. The aim of this report will be to consider whether regulators in Wales have the tools they need to ensure compliance with environmental law, and whether expanding civil sanctions would improve environmental outcomes.
The IEPAW is continuing to follow developments relating to water quality in Wales, particularly on sewage discharges into Welsh rivers. This includes actions arising from the Senedd CCEI Committee report on storm overflows published in March 2022.
The IEPAW also intends to consider the legal framework in relation to protected sites and will be hosting a roundtable on this issue in November.
Future work programme - publication
The IEPAW has recently agreed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with her counterparts in the other parts of the UK - the Office for Environmental Protection and Environmental Standards Scotland. The MoU is available and outlines how the three bodies intended to work together going forward.
The IEPAW is looking to publish a series of prioritisation principles to be used when determining which submissions may warrant a report for Welsh Ministers, as well as a user-friendly signposting document on environmental regulators operating in Wales.