ENFORCEMENT - 29.04.2021

Enforcement action resumes

Now that coronavirus-related restrictions are starting to be eased, inspectors are heading out again. Who is on their radar?

Enforcement. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) has said there will be an increasing number of enforcement staff on the ground in the coming weeks as more people are vaccinated and restrictions due to coronavirus are eased. It’s a fair bet that the Environment Agency (EA) in England will be doing the same.

Constraints. Staff who respond to incidents are classified as key workers and have therefore been permitted to travel to do their job during lockdown. But regulators across the UK have taken an extremely cautious approach with most enforcement officers restricted to desk-based duties. They have been reacting to many incidents and providing advice remotely, which campaigners have said isn’t working.

In the dark. It’s also worth noting that in Scotland Sepa has also been hit by a cyber attack (see The next step ). This happened on Christmas Eve 2020 and months later 30% of staff still don’t have email. Permits etc. have been extended and many routine checks and advice stopped. These are gradually returning.

More police. Don’t expect to see hordes of enforcement staff as lockdown restrictions are lifted. While coronavirus has hamstrung their enforcement activities, there has been a decline in policing over a number of years due to budget constraints.

Targets. Those that are out will be targeting the sites and businesses they see as higher risk, including those they have had on their radar as struggling or failing to comply with regulations, permits, etc.

Tip. Checks have been few and far between for the past year but they will certainly increase in 2021. The regulators will also be out to prove that their “smarter” approach to regulation - with fewer boots on the ground - is working. Compliant businesses have nothing to worry about so make sure your paperwork etc. is in order.

Although enforcement officers are back to full duties, their numbers are low. This means only high risk sites and those identified as breaching permits etc. will see them. If you keep on top of compliance, you’ll avoid a visit.

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