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Environment Agency sets out its approach to regulation during coronavirus

22nd Apr 2020 / By Alistair Driver

The Environment Agency has told the NPA that it has stopped routine farm inspections, but officers will still investigate serious pollution incidents

The agency has sent out an update to stakeholders on how it will continue to regulate during the coronavirus crisis. Commenting specifically on pigs and poultry, the agency said:  

"Across agriculture, including pigs and poultry, we have stopped routine farm inspections. This includes Certification Body visits for the Pig and Poultry Assurance Scheme.

"Our officers may still visit farms to investigate serious pollution incidents. If they do have to go on farms they will follow all the relevant advice, such as social distancing and hand washing, and respect the position of farmers and their families in how they want us to engage with them."

The agency added that it is continuing with the BREF permit review, due to the approaching February 2021 deadline.

"We hope farmers will still be able to provide feedback on their draft permit variations but we recognise this may not be possible due to other priorities," it said. 

The wider message to stakeholders can be viewed here

It includes a section outlining its position on flexibility in regulation, stressing that it will 'consider the appropriate regulatory response to any unavoidable non-compliance'.

"We expect everyone that we regulate to take all reasonable steps to comply with all relevant environmental legislation, and prepare for any foreseeable impacts as far as practical to reduce the impacts on people and the environment," it says.

"However, we understand this is a difficult time for many organisations. Many will be facing staff shortages which will impact their operational ability. This may mean it is not possible for those who we regulate to fully comply with their environmental obligations for reasons beyond their control. 

"We are monitoring the situation closely and will consider the appropriate regulatory response to any unavoidable non-compliance.

"In determining our regulatory response, we will consider our Enforcement and Sanctions Policy. This will include considering whether it is appropriate to publish a Regulatory Position Statement (RPS) in relation to a particular regulatory noncompliance."