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.