Deep cuts to the Environment Agency (EA) budget have led to a drop in prosecutions for offences such as pollution, according to a legal expert.
Jill Crawford, who works for the UK Environmental Law Association, sounded the alarm at a Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum (WEETF) event in London this week (March 12).
The EA has seen its environmental protection budget slashed by 55 per cent since 2010/11, from £113m to £50m in 2016/17.
“It is vital our existing environmental regulators are adequately resourced,” Ms Crawford said.
“There is concern about Natural England, but there has also been a huge drop in recent prosecutions by the EA and that is not being accompanied by a rise in civil sanctions.
“We do not know what is going on with enforcement, but it is a concern that even the EA now is suffering from a lack of resources.”
However, Andrea Ledward, natural environment director at Defra, suggested all the money which was previously spent on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) would be redirected to protect the environment after Brexit.
Speaking at the WEETF event, she said: “Everybody is fully aware of the pressures on Government services, but we are at the end of a spending review period and where we go next will be affected by whether we end up with a deal or no-deal scenario.
“As we go into the spending review, that is when we are really going to know what we are dealing with in terms of resources.
“I am very confident that overall, there is a significant amount of money coming back from Europe as we pull out of the CAP which will be going directly into improving the environment.”
Ms Ledward went on to say the Government would look to draw more heavily on private sector funding to improve the environment after the UK leaves the EU.
It was hoped the Chancellor may have begun to reverse cuts to the Natural England budget in his Spring Statement today (March 13), just as environmental campaigner Tony Juniper had his nomination as chair confirmed, but he would only commit to review the situation as part of the upcoming spending review.