AECoW has provided a written response to the biodiversity event it attended on 24th June, which was in preparation of CoP15 (October, China). This response was copied to all AECoW stakeholders, including all environmental regulators across the UK.
‘Whilst the event was interesting, we noted that it was almost silent on planning, development and construction and AECoW provides the following comments to the Government:
– The gulf between what planning applications, and EIAs, state in their predictions / EIA Reports in order to obtain consent, compared with the reality of the environmental, and biodiversity, impacts. These impacts frequently extend far beyond the predicted impacts, and frequently go un-monitored, and un-identified, and are likely to be significantly contributing to the Biodiversity Crisis.
– Absence of evaluating, and valuing ecosystem services, particularly during construction or ‘biodiversity net gain’ during EIA.
– The relative absence of fair, transparent, 3rd party environmental compliance monitoring, and reporting, during construction, paid for by developers (Employers) and appointed independently of construction projects, similar to Planning Monitoring Officers under Section 75.
– The absence of environmental legislation that sets out roles and responsibilities for delivering environmental commitments, such as the CDM Regulations for health and safety.
– The relative absence of effective contractual mechanisms to define non-conformance and provide recourse for it.
Contractors are expected to comply with the contract, and law, but often there are few contractual options / recourse in place for the Employer to convert environmental non-conformances into penalties, or it is reliant on Employers/Contractors to self-regulate their own environmental compliance. This does not work well on commercial contracts, particularly with the current lack of effective construction compliance monitoring regulations which require Employers, and Contractors, to demonstrate their environmental compliance. ie. CDM Regulations for the environment. This scenario dis-incentivises Employers, and Contractors, from delivering their environmental commitments and mitigation and it is often compounded by poor Contractor / Employer compliance monitoring, and reporting, that is often not publically available.
Due to the current situation this environmental risk is being realised on every construction project in the country, and they significantly, yet discreetly, contribute to the Biodiversity Crisis.
AECoW has been engaging with regulators and stakeholders across the UK for several years, to shine a light on these issues. To this end, the purpose of this email is to:
– Highlight that weaknesses in planning and environmental legislation exist, particularly regarding 3rd party environmental compliance monitoring, and reporting during construction, which is significantly contributing to the Biodiversity Crisis.
– Highlight the critical role of an EnCoW (and its status and authority) in construction contracts, and procurement, in relation to the Biodiversity Crisis.
– Highlight the need for the Government to carry out its own Strategic Environmental Assessment of existing environmental legislation and construction phase compliance monitoring.
– Recommend an open data store/bank – a repository for biodiversity records derived from research and commercial development projects, which must be driven by regulatory requirements and managed centrally by Government.
– Inform the Edinburgh Process, and agenda at COP15 with these issues.
– Request further engagement with the Government on these matters and offer AECoW’s knowledge, and work, as a foundation for future work that key agencies, and Government, can progress.
– Invite Government officials to our annual conference on 11th November 2021.
AECoW has helped establish two volunteer working groups with different remits to investigate, and consult, on the above issues:
– Regulatory & Planning Group (Chaired by the Heads of Planning Scotland (HoPS)).
– IEMA Post Consent and Construction Phase Group.
We have observed through our own consultation, and the above working groups, that existing levels of Government resources are not sufficient to address these multi-disciplinary issues, which span planning, environmental regulation, procurement and construction contracts. Consequently, good-willed environmental practitioners / volunteers at AECoW & IEMA are seemingly joining the dots between these areas and raising awareness of their combined impacts on, and contributions towards, the Biodiversity Crisis on behalf of the Government.
We request a meeting with dedicated Government resources to discuss these issues, and highlight opportunities, and solutions, to reduce impacts on the Biodiversity Crisis from construction projects, which would also support the Natural Capital Agenda, Environment Strategy, Planning Bill reforms and EIA Regulations.
For transparency, we have copied in key stakeholders who either work with us in our working groups, or we have initiated consultation with on this topic. We are using this information to inform discussions with our industry partners and other consultations across the UK, including those with the Cross Party Group on Construction, Linear Infrastructure Environmental Management Group, Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM), Chartered Institute of Water & Environmental Management (CIWEM), Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE), British Hydrological Society, Institute of Clerks of Works & Construction Inspectorate and the Civil Engineering Contractors Association Scotland.
We look forward to hearing from you soon.
AECoW Management Committee