Environmental protections

The weakening or removal of environmental protections, and the stripping back of enforcement capacity, has had an adverse effect on the UK environment – from sewage-filled rivers and deteriorating air quality to a countryside blighted by fly tipping and the decline of nature and wildlife.

Conversely, and as our research shows, the wider social and environmental benefits of robust, well-enforced regulations are clear. Indeed, achieving the UK’s ambitious environmental targets will not be possible without strong regulations.

Research by Unchecked UK and others shows that the UK public overwhelmingly supports strong environmental regulations. Despite this, important protections for wildlife and nature are being watered down.

Environmental protections

The weakening or removal of environmental protections, and the stripping back of enforcement capacity, has had an adverse effect on the UK environment – from sewage-filled rivers and deteriorating air quality to a countryside blighted by fly tipping and the decline of nature and wildlife.

Conversely, and as our research shows, the wider social and environmental benefits of robust, well-enforced regulations are clear. Indeed, achieving the UK’s ambitious environmental targets will not be possible without strong regulations.

Research by Unchecked UK and others shows that the UK public overwhelmingly supports strong environmental regulations. Despite this, important protections for wildlife and nature are being watered down.

The UK’s environmental enforcement gap

Environmental enforcement bodies have experienced huge cuts to their funding and staffing over the last ten years, with Natural England and the Environment Agency both seeing real-terms reductions of over 60%.

As a result, enforcement activity has fallen sharply. This means less checks and less prosecutions against the worst polluters. For example, the number of water samples taken by the Environment Agency fell by 51% from 2010-2021, while prosecutions fell by 80%.

Meanwhile, since its creation in 2006, Natural England has only issued 14 prosecutions for damage to Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), and the number of warning letters following offences on SSSIs has fallen by 60% over the last decade.

The UK’s Enforcement Gap
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Your stories

WINDRUSHWASP.ORG’S STORY

"We were truly alarmed to discover that the Environment Agency was allowing Thames Water to pump untreated sewage into the River Windrush."

SIMON’S STORY

“Bepton Down is just below the South Downs Way on a north facing slope with stunning views. It should be a unique area of chalk downland – but it isn’t.”

JOHN’S STORY

The first reports of deliberate disturbance were in 2003, when two men were caught attempting to release domestic pigeons, probably laced with poison.

ANN’S STORY

"We used to have a pot of money at the Environment Agency specifically allocated for nature conservation projects. As the cuts happened, we kept thinking - how are we supposed to do our job?"

BARRY’S STORY

"I am fortunate enough to live by Northumberland’s stunning coastline. But just over a mile away is Lynemouth beach which has been desecrated by decades of dumping."

TONY’S STORY

There have been many pollution incidents in and around the Watford area involving overflowing sewers, waste from industry and raw sewage as a result of mis-connections from properties.