Select Committee on European Union Written Evidence

Letter from Baroness Young of Old Scone, Chief Executive, Environment Agency to the Clerk of the Committee


  I refer to the copy you kindly sent us of a letter of March 13 from Committee from the Foundation for Water Research.

  We disagree with the Foundation for Water Research conclusions. We are absolutely committed to delivery of the Water Framework Directive, to involving stakeholders who can act to deliver the requirement of the directive, and strongly believe we will achieve legal compliance with the participation requirements of the Directive.

  We have set up River Basin Liaison Panels but are not proposing to set up further formal consultative groups, preferring to target our limited resources on engagement with appropriate deliverers who will be able to tackle the key issues identified within each river basin.

  We piloted the Common Implementation Strategy guidance in 2003 in the Ribble catchment in north west England. We found that stakeholders wanted to move from talking to delivery, and did not want duplication of existing engagement processes or fora.

  We have a long-standing and extensive engagement programme to support our day to day activities, and where there are important local issues we always set out to engage with those affected. Within our proposals for River Basin Planning we've made it clear we will set up further local consultation where it's needed.

  The Ribble pilot also gave us practical evidence for the ideal shape of River Basin Liaison Panels. We designed these to involve all the sectors contributing to delivery, including consumers (Consumer Council for Water is represented on all panels), environmental NGOs and local authorities. The panels have worked with us to produce the first consultation document required by the Directive, published in December 2006. This consultation, called Working Together, puts forward our proposed options for the amount and form of engagement during the River Basin Planning process.

  The consultation closes in June 2007 and our plans for engagement will be finalised when we have considered all the responses.

  I would suggest that Mr Woods or the Foundation for Water Research should be encouraged to respond to our Working Together consultation. This will allow them to formally make their views known to both us and the public.

16 April 2007

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