Letter from Rob Hitchin (DEFRA) to the
Clerk of the Committee |
EU WATER FRAMEWORK
Thank you for giving Defra the opportunity to
comment on the letter sent from the Foundation for Water Research
(FWR) to the Committee which is critical of the evidence provided
to the Committee on the role of public participation under the
EU Water Framework Directive (WFD).
I understand that the Environment Agency have
written separately to set out their views of the concerns raised
From the perspective of Defra I would like to
set out some of the efforts and initiatives we are taking to ensure
that the requirements of the WFD regarding public participation
(under Article 14) are being implemented at the national (England)
Since 2002 Defra has chaired a National Stakeholder
Forum for England on the WFD which meets every three to four months.
It comprises over 40 national organisations covering a broad range
of sectors on interests including agriculture, industry, ports
and navigation, environmental Non Governmental Organisations,
anglers, fisheries, energy and research institutions. FWR are
also members. The Forum allows Defra and the Environment Agency
to provide regular updates on the progress in WFD implementation
in England, UK and at EU level. It also allows national stakeholders
to put across the views and concerns of their membership so that
Defra and the EA can take on board these views at an early stage.
Parallel arrangements exist in respect of the WFD Article 17 Groundwater
Directive and the WFD Article 16 proposal on quality standards
for Priority List dangerous substances.
There are also two sub-groups of the WFD Stakeholder
Forum that have been established on economics and communication
of the WFD to wider audiences. The former meets several times
a year to provide input into the development and implementation
of the economic tools and analysis that are central to the successful
implementation of the WFD. The latter meets on an ad hoc basis
and proved extremely useful in helping DEFRA and the EA communicate
the initial results of the river basin characterisation exercise
in 2004 to a wider audience (which also received coverage in national
newspapers and radio).
Stakeholder engagement throughout the Defra
led Collaborate Research Programme on River Basin Management Planning
Economics for the WFD (CRP) has also been central to its work
from the start with several national organisations contributing
funds to the Programme. Major national workshops on the CRP and
WFD economic analysis generallyopen to any interested partieshave
also taken place annually in an attempt to disseminate more widely
the findings and methodologies that are emerging on cost-effectiveness
analysis, disproportionate cost analysis and benefits assessment.
The Defra led (together with Welsh Assembly
Government) preliminary Cost-Effectiveness Analysis (pCEA) work
currectly taking place in England (and Wales) is actively involving
key sectors and stakeholders that use and benefit from the water
environment through the establishment of sector working groups.
These groups are tasked with working up the potential costs associated
with national measures that could help meet WFD objectives. A
wider workshop is planned in coming months to disseminate the
findings to a wider national audience.
Defra also chairs other national level stakeholder
for a covering components of WFD implementation which include
those on Catchment Sensitive Farming (both policy development
and delivery) and non-agricultural diffuse pollution.
The Committee may also wish to note that 30
Catchment Steering Groups have been established under the England
Catchment Sensitive Farming Delivery Iniative. Their main function
is to bring together input from Natural England, the Environment
Agency and local stakeholders including farmers to inform activity
in the catchments. Water companies, nature conservation bodies
and farming sector representatives are members of these groups.
Defrs continue to provide frequent presentations
on WFD implementation at various EU and national conferences,
workshops and events with the aim of helping extend the understanding
of this challenging and important Directive to a wider audience
and how it can be used for ensuring the Government's objectives
for the protection and enhancement of the water environment are
met. For example we are working, alongside the EA and other UK
competent authorities on the WFD, with the Chartered Institution
of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) who are organising
a UK conference on WFD Implementation in London on 26 June.
In addition, there are the formal requirements
of Article 14 of the WFD which include the requirement for a timetable
and work programme for the production of the river basin management
plan, including consultation on a statement of the consultation
measures to be taken. (In England EA are fulfilling this through
their current consultations on "Working Together" being
undertaken in each River Basin District); consultation on an interim
overview of the significant water management issues identified
in each river basin district (to be undertaken by EA this summer)
and consultation on draft copies of the river basin district management
plans (to be issued by the EA by 22 December 2008).
Defra (and WAG) have also provided statutory
guidance to the EA in the form of our River Basin Planning Guidance
(August 2006). Chapter 11, Working in Partnership, of the guidance
states that the EA should set up River Basin District Liaison
Panels and the chapter also provided guidance as to what these
panels should do. In addition chapter 11 provides guidance on
other types of partnership working and dispute resolution, involving
Ministers, if necessary.
I hope that by outlining some of the significant
efforts we are making to ensure full stakeholder and public participation,
the Committee will be reassured that we are doing a great deal
to actively meet the public participation requirements of the
30 April 2007