Updated Feb 1, 2023

Government publishes the Environmental Improvement Plan

Less than two weeks after the UK's post-Brexit environmental watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection, published a damning report on the government's lack of progress made in the pledges set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan, the UK government publishes a new Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP), which is a requirement under the provisions of the Environment Act 2021.

The first detailed review of the 25 Year Environment Plan has ten goals which will be the focus of the governmental policy in the coming years, involving various aspects of the environment:

  • thriving plants and wildlife - an apex target;
  • clean air;
  • clean and plentiful water;
  • managing exposure to chemicals and pesticides;
  • maximise our resources, minimise our waste;
  • using resources from nature sustainably;
  • mitigating and adapting to climate change;
  • reducing the risk of harm from environmental hazards;
  • enhancing biosecurity; and
  • enhancing beauty, heritage and engagement with the natural environment.

According to the government, the Plan's main objective is thriving plants and wildlife, the improvement of which will be only significant if the other nine goals are achieved.

Water companies will be required to upgrade 160 of their wastewater treatment works to meet the strictest phosphorus limits by 2028, and upgrade a further 400 by 2038, to reduce harmful nutrient pollution from treated wastewater. This will be covered in a new plan, which will be published later in the year.

In addition, this Plan aims to address other issues, such as:

  • green financing to improve funding of nature's recovery from private sources;
  • reducing agricultural ammonia pollution through farming incentives and air pollution from domestic burning through the introduction of new limits;
  • a commitment to improving access to green spaces so that everyone should live within 15 minutes’ walk of a green or water, as well as improving walking paths and developing new trails.

One of the interesting subjects of this report involves new measures to improve drinking water efficiency, with some provisions focusing on the domestic use of water bathroom fittings through the introduction of a requirement into the Building Regulations to "address leaky loos and confusing dual flush buttons". It is worth noting that an investigation led by Ofwat has found that water companies in the UK are wasting nearly 3 billion litres of water each day through leaky pipework, and in some areas of the UK over 50% of the water provided is lost before it reaches the customers.

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