The Minister has launched an eight week consultation which invites further views on specific aspects of the powers and functions of the new body that is due to become fully operational on 1 April 2013.
The new body will replace the Environment Agency Wales, The Countryside Council for Wales and the Forestry Commission for Wales. Its aim is to ensure the most sustainable and effective management of Wales’ natural resources, to deliver a more streamlined way of working and to cut unnecessary duplication to a minimum.
It is estimated that over ten years the body will deliver up to £158 million in benefits before costs, freeing up resources for front line delivery.
The Minister said:
“This new body has a vital part to play in ensuring the health of Wales’ environment and its economy, so it is vital that we get the detail right.
“The new body must maintain the crucial work of three existing bodies in protecting Wales’ natural environment, maintaining its cultural and historic landscape and ensuring access to its countryside and coast. Importantly, it also needs to develop to meet the challenges of the future.
“I want to ensure that the new body has clear duties and powers necessary to deliver for Wales. This additional consultation will provide us with further views to shape the new body and I would urge those parties with an interest to feed into the process."
The consultation is split into two parts. The first looks at the overarching duties of the new body and specifically those relating to natural beauty, conservation, access, protection of historic landscape and forestry. These are areas where a number of duties have to be brought together and reconciled, rather than simply transferred.
The second part of the consultation will consider the legal and working arrangements of the body. These include: cross-border issues; regulation and enforcement, monitoring and sampling of cross-border sites and impacts; emergency response including the transfer of powers under the Control of Major Accidents and Hazards Regulations (COMAH); and transitional arrangements e.g. measures to transfer ongoing prosecutions, existing decisions and permits to the body.
The consultation builds on previous consultative work which looked at arrangements for establishing the new body and considered how it should best be directed. It will run until 5 October 2012 and its results will help to shape the Second Order, which will come into effect on 1 April 2013, when the body becomes fully operational.