Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Environmental Better Regulation Act (Northern Ireland) 2016

The Environmental Better Regulation Act (NI) 2016 received Royal Assent on 11 April 2016. The Act is a key element of the Department’s Regulatory Transformation Programme. The overall aim of the Programme is to provide a more streamlined and effective regulatory system for businesses and regulators.

During the consultation process businesses raised criticism of environmental regulations, and regulation itself, for being complex, inflexible, incoherent and time-consuming to understand. The lack of integration between environmental permits and the resource intensive nature of complying with multiple, un-coordinated inspections were identified as regulatory burdens, particularly by small/medium sized businesses, hindering them from doing business.

Who will the proposals affect?

The proposals will affect all businesses undertaking regulated activities under environmental legislation and the regulators of environmental legislation in NIEA, Marine Division and District Councils.

What are the Key Provisions of the Act?

The Act is primarily enabling legislation. Its key provisions are aimed at:-

1. Creation of an integrated environmental permitting regime.

The aim is that the new regime will allow the Department to issue an integrated permit that, where possible, will cover all environmental controls that relate to activities being undertaken at a site. The first phase will seek to integrate the permits currently issued by the NIEA's Environmental Protection Directorate i.e. governing pollution prevention and control, waste, water and radioactivity. Further phases will be undertaken to integrate, where possible, permits issued by the Natural and Built Heritage Directorates, and by the Marine Division.

2. Rationalising powers of entry and associated powers (inspection and investigation)

  • Remove any existing unnecessary or inappropriate powers of entry and associated powers
  • Add safeguards to powers of entry and associated powers, for example restrictions as to premises over which a power of entry may be exercised or the times at which such powers may be exercised
  • Change powers of entry and associated powers i.e. rewrite or modify to make them more effective for regulators and less burdensome for businesses.
  • Preparation of a Code of Practice in relation to powers of entry.

3. Amend the Clean Air (Northern Ireland) Order 1981

To provide for a new method for authorising fuels and exempted fireplaces in a smoke control area.

4. Amendments to the Environment (NI) Order 2002

District Councils will not be obligated to conduct further assessments of air quality within air quality management areas once established. This will allow district councils to prepare and implement air quality action plans more quickly and avoid duplicating information already gathered, either in the earlier detailed assessment stage or in the preparation of the air quality plan.

5. Amendments to the Water and Sewerage Services (NI) Order 2006

To transfer responsibility for the regulation of drinking water quality for public supplies from DRD to DOE. DOE currently has responsibility for private drinking water supplies. That will result in a more streamlined, efficient and transparent administrative structure that is in line with the aims of the better regulation agenda. It will help businesses and consumers by removing the potential for confusion over which Department is responsible for the regulation of public and private supply.

Further Information

Consultation paper on proposals for an Environmental Better Regulation Bill
Environmental Better Regulation Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 
Environmental Better Regulation (2016 Act)(Commencement No.1) Order (Northern Ireland) 2016

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