The Environment Act powers that have yet to come into force

UPDATED: The Environment Act was signed into law nearly two years ago, but a number of provisions from the act are yet to come into force. ENDS has compiled a list of the provisions that have not been introduced. Here’s what you need to know.

Part of the South West Coast Path. Photograph: Getty Images/James Osmond

Below is a list of the provisions included in the Environment Act due to come into force “on such day as the secretary of state may by regulations appoint” for England and Wales, but which have not yet been implemented.

The two provisions under this category for Scotland have already been made, which is why they are not included. 

None of the specific provisions to be approved by the secretary of state for Northern Ireland have been made, which means the full list is easily accessible on the legislation’s page and has not be included in this list.  

READ MORE: Environment Act: Timeline of all the provisions that have come into force

1. Environmental Principles Policy Statement 

In January this year, the government set out the final version of its environmental principles policy statement (EPPS)

The deadline for its implementation, as per Section 19 of the act, is set for on or by 1 November, “so far as it is not already in force”. 

READ MORE: Will the government’s environmental principles statement live up to expectations?

2. Waste and resource efficiency

Most of the provisions for Part Three of the act have been scheduled.

The only provision that still has not yet been given a deadline is Section 57, the separation of waste. This stipulates that recyclable household waste must be collected separately from other household waste, for recycling or composting, and that the secretary of state will have the power to add further recyclable waste streams.

It also stipulates that dry recyclable waste streams must never be mixed with food or garden waste streams, and food waste collection must take place at least once a week.

No timeline has been given for the provision to come into force in England. Concerns have been raised about the adjustment period that will be needed by some councils that currently do not have separate collections for food waste. 

READ MORE: The waste target: Based purely on policies already in train?

3. Air quality 

For England, all of the provisions in part four of the Environment Act under 'air quality' have come into force, as per the commencement schedule. 

However, in Wales, the secretary of state has yet to appoint the principal amendments to the Clean Air Act 1993, which makes a provision for authorised fuels and exempt fireplaces to be listed in Wales as per section 73 of the act. 

No deadlines have been given for the environmental recall subheading of part four, which includes sections 74 to 77 and confers powers onto the relevant secretary of state to recall motor vehicles or products that do not meet “relevant environmental standards”. 

4. Water

Note: This section has been updated as of 9 November, 2023, to reflect key changes.

For part five of the act, on water, a number of provisions seeking to standardise the way data on water is presented and increase collaboration have not come into force yet. 

This includes Section 78 and Section 79, which amend the Water Industry Act 1991, and stipulate that a minister – of either England or Wales – can get water companies to submit joint proposals, drought plans, water resource management plans, and drainage and sewerage management plans, and can put requirements on water companies as to how this is done. 

Sections 81 and 83, which would also amend the Water Industry Act, have also not come into force. 

Section 81 sets out how storm overflow reporting should take place. This includes a requirement that information about storm overflows must be “in a form which allows the public readily to understand it”, and “be published in a way which makes it readily accessible to the public”. 

This is enforceable; however it is written that the “secretary of state may not make regulations under this section unless a draft of the statutory instrument containing the regulations has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, each House of Parliament”.

In terms of how water quality in areas potentially affected by discharges is measured, Section 82 outlines that sewerage undertakers in England must “continuously monitor the quality of water upstream and downstream of an asset”. This data must include the levels of dissolved oxygen, temperature and pH values, turbidity, ammonia, and anything else specified in regulations made by the secretary of state. It came into force as of 3 November 2023.

Section 83 on the “Reduction of adverse impacts of storm overflows” has not yet come into force; however, the Environment Act outlines that “A sewerage undertaker whose area is wholly or mainly in England must secure a progressive reduction in the adverse impacts of discharges from the undertaker’s storm overflows”. This includes impacts on both the environment and public health. 

Sections 85 and 87, also amendments to the Water Industry Act 1991 – which give the government powers to require information for the purpose of monitoring and relate to the electronic service of documents – have not yet come into force for water companies mostly operating in Wales but have for companies in England. 

In terms of Wales’ specific provisions, there is still no timeline on two provisions amending the Land Drainage Act 1991, which are: Section 95, which amends in regard to the valuation of other land in drainage districts, and Section 96, which gives an alternative method of calculating the annual value of agricultural land and buildings.

5. Nature and biodiversity

Note: This section has been updated as of 9 November, 2023, to reflect key changes .

For part six of the act, the implementation of sections 99, and 101 – which give development consent for nationally significant infrastructure projects and the rules about biodiversity credits, respectively – still have no timeline. 

Section 98 and 100, on making provisions for biodiversity net gain to be a condition of planning permission and on registering biodiversity gain sites came into effect on 3 November. 

Section 115, which would amend section 96 of the Highways Act 1980 and place a duty on local highway authorities in England to consult before felling street trees, is set to come into force on November 30.