Government gives improved environmental enforcement powers to Natural England

From 3 January 2012, Natural England will have more flexible powers to help resolve cases where breaches of environmental regulations have resulted in harm to wildlife and the natural environment.

Natural England already has enforcement responsibilities in areas including Sites of Special Scientific Interest, heather and grass burning, breaches of certain wildlife licences, breaches of the Environmental Impact Assessment (Agriculture) Regulations and damage caused by injurious weeds.

Until recently, the only options available to tackle breaches in these areas were either to issue warning letters or to proceed to full criminal prosecution. From 3 January the new “civil sanctions” will enable Natural England to stop illegal activities, order the restoration of environmental damage and accept voluntary enforcement undertakings where legislation has been breached.

Ministerial approval was given following an eight-week public consultation, which indicated strong public support for the new sanctions. The full package of information produced as part of the consultation is now available on our website.

Janette Ward, Natural England’s Director of Regulation said: “We value the response we have received in the consultation. Our new powers give a welcome degree of flexibility – helping to ensure that we can fine-tune the actions needed to protect our natural environment, rectify damage and deter those minded to harm our wildlife - without imposing unnecessary penalties and costs. Our aim is to help people and businesses to comply with the laws protecting our wildlife and natural environment - enforcement action is a last resort.”