The UK government has promised to continue to crack down on sources of industrial pollution, after today publishing a new framework for establishing the Best Available Techniques (BAT) businesses must deploy to secure environmental permits.
The new Best Available Techniques framework aims to ensure regulators and industry can work together to identify and apply up to date and challenging standards to reduce harmful industrial emissions that can lead to air, water, and soil pollution.
The framework is part of the process of translating EU rules into UK law, with the government today promising to deliver higher standards than those imposed through the EU's own BAT framework.
The EU's BAT rules require industrial sites to demonstrate they will use approved technologies and techniques when seeking environmental permits for new facilities or upgrades. The standards are credited with driving down pollution from factories and industrial sites while helping to ensure businesses invest in cleaner and more efficient equipment.
The UK government said its new framework "aims to develop higher standards for industrial emissions, as the UK moves away from the EU's regulatory framework towards one that better caters to UK businesses and the wellbeing of local communities".
The new framework will now see the UK government and Devolved Administrations work with industry and local councils to identify the Best Available Techniques that should be approved under the new regime. The process includes agreeing and setting emissions limits within environmental permits and determining the types of technologies and methods operators should use to reduce their environmental impacts.
A new governance structure will also be established, the government said, with new independent bodies - called the Standards Council and the Regulators Group - consisting of government officials and expert regulators from all four nations of the UK.
In addition, a UK Air Quality Governance Group will be established to oversee the work of the Standards Council and the delivery of the new framework.
The resulting lists of approved Best Available Techniques for different industries are to be published as statutory instruments and used as the basis for permit conditions. The process is expected to take between one and three years to complete, depending on the complexity of given industrial sectors.
Environment Minister Steve Double said the new framework represented a significant step forward for the government's efforts to crack down on industrial pollution.
"Tackling emissions is essential to reduce the damaging effects of air, water and land pollution on people and the environment," he said. "The new framework and collaborative approach will ensure higher standards for industrial emissions across the UK and a more effective governance structure to support industry in finding the best available techniques to meet these standards.
"This builds on the wide range of actions we are already taking through our existing legal framework to drive down pollutants and improve public health and the environment."
However, the process will be closely monitored by environmental groups, which remain fearful that the transition away from EU air and water quality rules could result in a dilution of environmental standards - concerns that have been exacerbated by some of the rhetoric during this summer's Conservative Party leadership campaign, which has seen both candidates promise to roll back regulations and expand free port areas where businesses are exempted from some rules.