Environment Agency

Environment Agency

The Environment Agency ( _cy. Asiantaeth yr Amgylchedd) is a Non-Departmental Public Body of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and an Assembly Sponsored Public Body of the National Assembly for Wales. The Agency's purpose is to protect the environment from threats such as flood and pollution and to enhance the environment taken as a whole. The Environment Agency's remit covers the whole of England and Wales; about 15 million hectares of land, 36,000 kilometres of river and 5,000 kilometres of coastline, including 2 million hectares of coastal waters. [ [http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/ea/index.htm Defra Sponsorship] ] Its remit also extends into Scotland in the River Tweed and River Solway catchments where special arrangements exist with SEPA to avoid duplication but retain management on a catchment basis.

In support of its aims, the Agency acts as an operating authority, a regulatory authority and a licence authority. It employs around 13,000 staff and in 2007–08 had an operational budget of £1.025 billion, of which £628m was grant from the Agency's sponsoring Government Departments. Approximately half the Agency's expenditure is on flood risk management, and a third is spent on environment protection (pollution control). Of the remainder, 12% goes to water resources, and 6 % to other water functions including navigation and wildlife. [ [http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/commondata/acrobat/annrep0607_e_1441788.pdf 0607 Annual Report] ] [ [http://publications.environment-agency.gov.uk/pdf/GEHO0708BOFC-e-e.pdf 0708 Annual Report] ]


The Environment Agency was created by the Environment Act 1995, and came into existence on April 1, 1996. It took over the roles and responsibilities of the National Rivers Authority (NRA), Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution (HMIP) and the waste regulation authorities in England and Wales including the London Waste Regulation Authority (LWRA). All of the predecessor bodies were disbanded and the local authorities relinquished their waste regulatory role.

Core Principles

The Environment Agency's stated purpose is, "to protect or enhance the environment, taken as a whole" so as to promote "the objective of achieving sustainable development" (taken from the Environment Act 1995, section 4). The vision of the Agency is of "a rich, healthy and diverse environment for present and future generations." [ [http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/aboutus/1105530/289892/ Environment Agency's Vision] ]

Water Management Responsibilities

Flood and coastal erosion

The Environment Agency is the principal flood risk management operating authority. It has the power (but not the legal obligation) to manage flood risk from designated main rivers and the sea. The Environment Agency is also responsible for increasing public awareness of flood risk, flood forecasting and warning and has a general supervisory duty for flood risk management. As of 2008 the Environment Agency also has a strategic overview role for all flood and coastal erosion risk management. [ [http://www.defra.gov.uk/environ/fcd/defrafm.pdf Defra's overview of how flood and coastal erosion risk is managed in England] ] The Environment Agency uses its powers to reduce the probability and consequences of flooding. Functions in relation to areas of special drainage need in England and Wales are undertaken by Internal Drainage Boards.

;Probability-reducing activitiesIn terms of reducing the probability of a flood event, the Environment Agency is responsible for the operation, maintenance and replacement of an estimated £20 billion worth of flood risk management (FRM) installations, which are estimated to prevent damage costs each year of approximately £3.6 billion on average. [ [http://www.defra.gov.uk/environ/fcd/policy/naarmaps.htm 2004 National Assessment of Defence Needs and Costs] ] [ [http://www.defra.gov.uk/environ/fcd/default.htm Defra's Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management page] ] [ [http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/aboutus/512398/289428/656297/?version=1&lang=_e&lang=_e Environment Agency Flood Management (Ignore the password box)] ] It also invests in making improvements or providing new assets in areas where the residual probability of flooding is high and, combined with the potential consequences, the risk is the highest. The use of the term "Flood Risk Management" in place of "Flood Defences" recognises that technology alone cannot cope with the increasing flood risks [ [http://publications.environment-agency.gov.uk/pdf/SCHO1005BJTC-e-e.pdf DEFRA/Environment Agency "Improving Community and Citizen Engagement in Flood Risk Management Decision Making, Delivery and Flood Response] ]

;Consequence-reducing activitiesIn terms of reducing the consequences of a flood event, the Environment Agency provides flood forecasting and warning systems and maintains maps of areas liable to flood, as well as preparing emergency plans and responding when an event occurs. From a prevention perspective, the Environment Agency carries out a regulatory function in terms of development control - monitoring planning applications within flood risk areas, making sure that any development is carried out in line with legislation (PPS25). The agency checks the flood risk assessment that must be submitted with most planning applications in flood risk areas. The agency also runs public awareness campaigns to inform those at risk who may be unaware that they live in an area that is prone to flooding, as well as providing information about what the flood warning codes and symbols mean and how to respond in the event of a flood.

Water resources

The Agency manages the use and conservation of water through the issue of water abstraction licences for activities such as drinking water supply, artificial irrigation and hydro-electricity generation.

Complex arrangements exist for the management of river regulation reservoirs, which are used to store winter water in the wetter parts of England and Wales in order to maintain levels in the summer time so that there is sufficient water to supply the drier parts of the country with drinking water.

Wildlife, recreation and marine

The Agency has an important role in conservation and ecology specifically along rivers and in wetlands. More general responsibility for the countryside and natural environment in England falls to the organisation Natural England. The Environment Agency's activities support users of the rivers and wetlands, including anglers and boaters."Fishing"
The Agency is a regulator of angling and sells over a million rod licences a year. It uses the proceeds (approx £20M per annum) [http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/subjects/fish/165773/169852/174139/257797/?version=1&lang=_e Environment Agency "Rod Licence Sales"] to maintain and improve the quality of fisheries in England and Wales by improving habitat. The Agency also regulates the commercial exploitation of shell-fish.

The Environment Agency is the second largest navigation authority in the UK in charge of 1,020 km of inland rivers and estuaries and harbours in England and Wales. Where necessary the Agency maintains and operates systems of sluices, weirs and locks in order to manage water-levels and provide for navigation. Annual spending to maintain these installations, with an estimated replacement value of £700M, is around £22M per annum. [ [http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/commondata/acrobat/fsreport.020508_2035176.pdf Environment Agency "2020 Vision for Funding our Waterways] ] The Agency uses the registration of some 31000 craft on the waterways to provide much of the income [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7589526.stm BBC News "Crackdown on River Boat Licences Saturday, 30 August 2008] ] The Agency is responsible for navigation on the non-tidal River Thames and these other navigations:
*Fens and Anglian system: River Ancholme, River Glen, Great Ouse, River Nene, River Stour, River Welland
*River Wye and River Lugg
*Royal Military CanalFunctions in relation to most canals are undertaken by the British Waterways Board.

The Environment Agency is also the Harbour Authority for Rye and the Conservancy Authority for the Dee Estuary. [ [http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/subjects/navigation/ Navigation] ]

Environment Protection Responsibilities

The Agency is the main regulator of discharges to air, water, and land - under the provisions of a series of Acts of Parliament. It does this through the issue of formal consents to discharge or, in the case of large, complex or potentially damaging industries by means of a permit. Failure to comply with such a consent or permit or making a discharge without the benefit of a consent can lead to criminal prosecution. Magistrates' Court can impose fines of up to £50,000 or 12 months imprisonment for each offence of causing or knowingly permitting pollution. If prosecuted in the Crown Court, there is no limit on the amount of the fine and sentences of up to 5 years imprisonment may be imposed on those responsible for the pollution or on Directors of companies causing pollution.

Air quality

The Agency is a regulator for the release of air pollutants into the atmosphere from large, complex industrial processes. This will soon include emissions from some large-scale agricultural activities, but air pollutant releases from many agricultural activities will continue to be unregulated. [ [http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/subjects/airquality/ The air quality section of the Environment Agency's website] ]

Major sources of air pollution, such as transport, are subject to various measures at the European, national and local level. Local authorities regulate air pollution from smaller industrial processes. The Agency works with local authorities, the Highways Agency and others to implement the UK government's air quality strategy in England and Wales as mandated in the Environment Act 1995. The Environment Agency has an Air Quality Modelling and Assessment Unit (AQMAU) that aims to ensure that air quality assessments for permit applications, enforcement and air pollution incident investigations are consistent, of a high standard and based on sound science. [ [http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/subjects/airquality/236092/?version=1 The AQMAU section of the Environment Agency's website] ]

Land quality

The Agency is the regulatory authority for all waste management activities including the licensing of sites such as landfill, incineration and recycling facilities. It also regulates the movement of hazardous wastes such as fibrous asbestos, infectious clinical wastes and harmful chemicals. The Agency issues Environmental Permits to waste management sites and any individuals or companies found to have caused pollution or have infringed their licence conditions can be prosecuted. In serious cases the Environment Agency has the power to revoke the Environmental Permits issued to sites that contravene the conditions of their permits stopping all waste handling activties.

Water quality

The Agency has a duty to maintain and improve the quality of surface and ground waters and as part of the duty it monitors the quality of rivers, lakes, the sea and ground-water on a regular basis.

Consultation and Influencing

The Agency uses its influence and provides education in order to change attitudes and behaviour towards the environment. Action, in several policy areas, is directed towards business and commerce at all levels, children in education, the general public and Government and local government. This last area is quite distinct from the Agency's statutory role to advise Government.

In local government planning processes, the Environment Agency is a statutory consultee on all planning matters from County Strategic plans down to individual planning applications. In reality only those applications judged to pose special risks to the environment are commented on in any detail. For many years the Agency has been offering strong advice against the development of land in flood-plains because of the risk of flooding. This advice had been widely ignored by many planning authorities.

Advice to Government

Until the formation of the Environment Agency, the Government took specialist advice on the management of the environment from civil servants employed in appropriate ministries. This led to considerable duplication of effort and frequent disagreements between Government and the regulatory agencies. The Environment Agency now advises Government directly about those issues within its purview.


The agency is funded in part from the UK government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Welsh Assembly Government. Additional money is raised from the issuing of licences and permits such as abstraction licences, waste handler registrations, navigation rights and rod (fishing) licences and from licensing data for which the Agency is owner.

Funding for asset management and improvement and acquisition of flood risk management assets has traditionally come from local authorities via Flood Defence Committees. This was then effectively repaid by central Government in later years as part of the Formula Spending Share. In 2005 this was simplified by making a direct transfer from Treasury to the Environment Agency in the form of Flood Defence Grant in Aid.

The Environment Agency's total funding in 2007–08 was £1,025 million, an increase of £23 million on 2006–07. Of that total, £628 million (61 per cent) was provided in the form of 'flood defence grant-in-aid' from government (£578 million for England and £50 million for Wales). In addition, £347 million (34 per cent) was raised through statutory charging schemes and flood defence levies; and a further £50 million (5 per cent) came from other miscellaneous sources. [ [http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/commondata/acrobat/annrep0607_e_1441788.pdf 0607 Annual Report] ] [ [http://publications.environment-agency.gov.uk/pdf/GEHO0708BOFC-e-e.pdf 0708 Annual Report] ]


The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (currently Hilary Benn) has the lead sponsorship responsibility for the Environment Agency as a whole and is responsible for the appointment of the Chairman and the Environment Agency Board (with the exception of one member appointed by the National Assembly for Wales).

In addition the Secretary of State is responsible for overall policy on the environment and sustainable development within which the Agency undertakes its work; the setting of objectives for the Agency's functions and its contribution to sustainable development; the approval of its budget and payment of Government grant to the Agency for its activities in England and approval of its regulatory and charging regimes. [ [http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/ea/index.htm Role of Defra and the Secretary of State in relation to the Environment Agency] ] For policy, objectives, approval and activities in Wales, the Agency is accountable to the Minister for Sustainability and Rural Development in Wales (currently Jane Davidson).

* Chris Smith (July 2008–present)
*Sir John Harman (2000–2008)
*Lord de Ramsey (1996–2000)

Chief Executive:
*Paul Leinster (June 2008–present) "Acting"
*Barbara Young, Baroness Young of Old Scone (2000–2008)
*Professor Ed Gallagher (1995–2000)


The Environment Agency is organised into seven directorates that report to the Chief Executive. [ [http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/aboutus/233207/233257/?version=1&lang=_e How we are structured] ]
*Four central shared service groups:
**Human Resources
**Legal Services
*Two "policy and process" units, each covering the two main areas of responsibility described above.
**Water Management
**Environment Protection
*A single "delivery" unit, including 22 national services, and line management of all the Regional & Area staff.

Regions and areas

The Environment Agency consists of a total of 20 areas grouped into eight regions, seven in England and Environment Agency Wales, all of which report to the Director of Operations.

*Anglian Region—Central Area, Eastern Area and Northern Area
*Midlands Region—East Area, Central Area, and West Area
*North East Region—Northeast Area and Yorkshire Area
*North West Region—North Area and South Area
*South West Region—Devon & Cornwall Area and Wessex Area
*Southern Region—Kent & East Sussex Area and Solent & South Downs Area
*Thames Region—Northeast Area, Southeast Area and West Area
*Environment Agency Wales—Northern Area, Southeast Area and Southwest Area


The Environment Agency has been the target of criticism over the years. Examples of such criticism include:

Easter 1998 Floods

The Environment Agency was heavily criticised for its handling of the response to the flooding in Easter 1998, when 5 people died after the equivalent of one months rain fell in Midlands in 24 hours, causing £400m damage. A report commissioned by the Agency said: "Lack of public awareness of the warning systems, inconsistent application across regions, and misunderstandings between the agency and emergency services, resulted in poor overall performance."

Peter Bye, chairman of the review team and a former chief executive of Suffolk CC, said the scale of the damage could have been avoided if the agency had issued more advice to those living in the worst affected areas. The report says: "People who do not understand what they can do to protect themselves when they are warned are not protected." [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/184105.stm BBC report on Flood Failures] ] [ [http://www.lgcplus.com/News/1998/10/flood_report_soaks_environment_agency_with_criticism.html Criticism following 1998 Floods] ]

June 2007 National Audit Office report

Chief executive Baroness Barbara Young faced calls for her resignation when she appeared before the committee of public accounts on 27th June 2007, following a critical National Audit Office report on the country's flood defences. The Committee of Public Accounts said the agency had "not delivered protection for the British people". Committee chairman Edward Leigh said: "In view of the fact that you have manifestly failed to carry out the promises given to this committee, do you think the time has come to consider your own position?" [ [http://www.edie.net/news/news_story.asp?id=13267 Criticism of Agency CEO] ]

The report highlighted that the Environment Agency had failed to maintain almost two thirds of flood defence systems in target condition and that since 2001 the general conditions of assets had not improved significantly. It concluded the agency could reduce the need for extra funding by improving cost effectiveness. [ [http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm200708/cmselect/cmpubacc/175/175.pdf NAO report: Building and Maintaining River and Coastal Defences in England] ]

ummer 2007 Floods

Following the flooding emergency in June and July 2007, which left 13 people dead, 44,600 homes flooded [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7473463.stm Flooding action plan promised] ] and caused £3bn damage, Defra announced an independent review by Sir Michael Pitt. The review concluded that the quality of flood risk information available to emergency services and the public was poor, saying "some decision making was hampered by insufficient preparation and a lack of information". Pitt also called for a step change in the quality of flood warnings.

The review also argued that the Government's £800 million-a-year flood defence budget for 2010 to 2011 was "about right" but stated that money should be spent more wisely. Sir Michael said: "What we are arguing is that we were not well prepared last summer for the scale of flooding that took place." [ [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2191349/Britain-ill-prepared-for-new-flooding-crisis-report.html Britain ill prepared for new flooding crisis] ] [ [http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/thepittreview The Pitt Review: Lessons learned from the 2007 floods] ]

The Environment Agency Directors attracted further criticism when it emerged that shortly before the floods they had received five-figure "performance bonuses", [ [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1558996/Environment-Agency-chiefs-face-bonus-anger.html Directors face bonus anger] ] [ [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article2159287.ece Directors get big cash bonuses] ] with numerous calls for the bonuses to be donated to flood relief funds. Further questions were raised over the timing of the release of the information—just as MPs left for their 11-week summer recess—guaranteeing minimum parliamentary scrutiny. [ [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1558882/Former-flood-chief-I-would-give-up-bonus.html Former CEO would give up bonus] ]

In addition, calls to break up the Environment Agency and create a dedicated Flood Risk Management Agency were raised again, [ [http://www.nce.co.uk/environment/features/2008/05/ripe_for_change.html NCE article Ripe for Change] ] echoing the 2001 independent review by the Institute of Civil Engineers, [ [http://www.ice.org.uk/downloads//ICEFlooding.pdf Learning to live with rivers] ] which called for an independent floods body separate from the Agency. After the Summer floods, the report's author, George Fleming, renewed this call, saying that the Environment Agency had too many roles and faced too great a conflict between its roles as habitat protector and planning regulator. These calls were rejected by the then CEO Barbara Young. [ [http://www.nce.co.uk/news/energy/2008/06/young_rubbishes_flood_agency_calls.html Young rubbishes flood agency calls] ]


ee also

*List of environmental organizations
*UK Atmospheric Dispersion Modelling Liaison Committee
*UK Dispersion Modelling Bureau
*Infrastructure asset management

External links

* [http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk Environment Agency]
* [http://www.sepa.org.uk Scottish Environment Protection Agency]
* [http://www.enn.com/top_stories/article/38009 Environment agency warns government over climate change damage] .

Related Acts of Parliament

* [http://www.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts1995/Ukpga_19950025_en_1.htm Environment Act 1995]
* [http://www.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts1991/Ukpga_19910057_en_1.htm Water Resources Act 1991]
* [http://www.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts1991/Ukpga_19910059_en_1.htm Land Drainage Act 1991]
* [http://www.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts1990/Ukpga_19900043_en_1.htm Environmental Protection Act 1990]
* [http://www.opsi.gov.uk/RevisedStatutes/Acts/ukpga/1974/cukpga_19740040_en_1 Control of Pollution Act 1974]
* [http://www.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts1989/Ukpga_19890014_en_1.htm Control of Pollution (amendment) Act 1989]
* [http://www.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts1989/Ukpga_19890015_en_1.htm Water Act 1989]

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