The interim body will provide independent oversight of the government’s environmental progress on a non-statutory basis, in advance of the Office for Environmental Protection being legally created later this year.
The new body replaces and strengthens the current interim environmental governance arrangements that have been in place since the start of January and will be able to:
- Produce and publish an independent assessment of progress in relation to the implementation of the UK Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan*
- Develop the Office for Environmental Protection’s strategy, including its enforcement policy
- Receive complaints from members of the public about failures of public authorities to comply with environmental law
- Take decisions on operational matters such as staff recruitment, accommodation and facilities
- Determine approaches for how the Office for Environment Protection will form and operate, establishing its character, ways of working and voice.
It is expected that the OEP will be formally established following the passing of Environment Bill in the autumn. Subject to the approval of the NI Assembly, the OEP will also become the environmental oversight body for Northern Ireland.
In the interim period Northern Ireland will continue to participate in the handling of complaints about public authorities failing to comply with environmental law, with a member of DAERA staff attached to the Interim OEP for this function.
The interim body will be steered by the Chair, Dame Glenys Stacey, and Interim Chief Executive, Natalie Prosser, together with other non-executive directors. To ensure that Northern Ireland is properly represented during the strategic development of the OEP, the DAERA Minister, with the support of the AERA Committee and the NI Executive, has initiated a recruitment competition for a NI non-executive member of the OEP, with the aim of making an appointment by September 2021.
The OEP Website can be accessed here.
*The 25 Year Environmental Plan applies primarily to England and reserved matters. DAERA is currently working towards producing NI’s first Environmental Improvement Plan.