Guidelines on liaison between HMIP and local authorities

A memorandum of understanding has been drawn up between HM Inspectorate of Pollution (HMIP) and local authorities to clarify their responsibilities under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Particular emphasis is placed on the handling of public complaints concerning processes under HMIP's control.

HMIP has already signed memoranda of understanding with the National Rivers Authority and the Health and Safety Executive. The aim is to improve communication and prevent overlap between the different regulatory bodies.

The latest document covers liaison between HMIP and local authorities for both pollution and statutory nuisance control. Communication in some areas has been poor, largely due to changes in HMIP's regional structure and in the scope of its responsibilities.

The memorandum notes that "local authority environmental health officers (EHOs) will often be the first port of call for public complaints or concerns." When found to relate to an HMIP-controlled process, any justifiable complaint should be reported to HMIP, which is then responsible for responding and for keeping the local authority informed.

Similarly, HMIP inspectors should inform the relevant local authority of significant plant malfunctions or breaches of authorisation conditions by any HMIP-regulated plant in its area. Where such incidents could have a potentially serious effect on the local community, the local authority should be advised "without delay".

The memorandum reminds inspectors that "certain decisions they take may have a significant impact on matters of local authority concern." For example, any emissions considered trivial under integrated pollution control will then only be subject to statutory nuisance control by the local authority.

For processes subject to local authority air pollution control, the memorandum warns that "EHOs should not expect HMIP inspectors to be a regular source of advice". However, it will provide them on request with information about processes transferred to local authority control under the 1990 Act.

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