Brexit station approaching….. all change?

When we finally set off down the no doubt long and winding Brexit road, as landscape architects we are likely to notice some effects on agricultural policy, environmental law and planning law and policy.

Like everything, much of the outcome on these aspects of policy and law will be dependent on the type of legal agreement between the UK and the EU. As far as I can understand (and I’m no expert – seemingly in good company here with many far higher up the pecking order than me) there are various main options: (1) join the European Economic Area (like Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein); (2) use something similar to the Swiss model (based on treaties) (3) form a Customs Union (like Turkey) or (4) trade with the EU on World Trade Organisation terms (which apply to every country and  is mainly how the US works).

So…when (and if) this is decided what will change in planning and environmental law?

Agricultural policy is possibly a great opportunity waiting to be taken as part of the Brexit process. Whereas the EU has, in the past, simplistically provided income support to farmers, going forwards there is the chance to link land management payments to output for the benefits of the public. The EAC (House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee) has put forward advice to the government on this at length – and The Landscape Institute has commented on this. You can read more here:  https://www.landscapeinstitute.org/news/house-of-commons-eu-referendum-report/, with a statement on the LI position from the President, Merrick Denton-Thompson here: https://www.landscapeinstitute.org/pressrelease/statement-environmental-audit-committee-report-future-natural-eenvironment/

Planning policy managing development will likely remain pretty much as is. The EU has very limited input into this, leaving control to each individual member state. In turn, the UK has devolved these policies to the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly (however much longer the latter lasts…)

Environmental legislation is likely to be more affected. Whilst treaties and legislation will cease to apply and the UK will need to re-write many of these, environment protection has been very much championed and is set out in EU legislation and dictated to the member states through directives, much of which is adopted by the UK in domestic law: for water; waste; environmental impact assessment (EIA); biodiversity, habitat and wildlife protection; energy efficiency; and public participation in environmental decisions. In many cases the UK law exceeds the EU directive requirements.

One policy change that has to continue, despite Brexit, is action on the new EIA directive which has recently come into force. This contains new timescales for screening determinations, new requirements for public consultation and the need going forwards for conditions to set out monitoring after development commencement where significant effects are anticipated. The UK must implement these changes in domestic law by May 2017; Brexit is no excuse as this requirement still applies whilst the UK works out its two year notice period to leave the EU.

In terms of wildlife law, various directives covering EU conservation designations will have to be reviewed; this covers SACs and SPAs, as well as European protected species (full list here: http://www.biodiversityplanningtoolkit.com/stylesheet.asp?file=613_full_list_of_european_protected_species )

International conventions such as RAMSAR wetland sites are safe, as are the Kyoto Protocol (covering greenhouse gas emissions) and the Aarhus Convention (covering public participation and access to information and justice in environmental matters).

Once the way forward in legal terms then the effects of Brexit will start to become clearer. Whilst the view forwards might be murky at present, there are likely to be clear opportunities for improvements.

Don’t quote me on the above – I’m still a little hazy about the detail, but in this respect I’m rubbing shoulders with those at the top…

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