WHAT DID WE ASK
“I would like to know if the Environment Agency has any role in the regulation of the environmental consultant industry, which advise clients, usually on planning issue compliance/environmental monitoring of sites e.t.c.
My question is who regulates this industry or tests whether their reports and conclusions are indeed competent and not entirely fictitious, especially when it comes to chemical testing of soil samples/ and emissions?
Do the Agency ever undertake their own tests to test the environmental consultants- or does this growing industry have free reign to manufacture desk top studies to tailor their client’s needs?
What legal action, providing that they are ever caught out, can be taken against environmental consultants who deliberately mislead public bodies in the planning process with reports and findings which are false or misleading, or does a disclaimer at the front of
a report about accuracy of the findings make them immune from prosecution?
WHY DID WE ASK THIS
Planning laws in the UK have been subject to continuing relaxation, particularly involving so called “brownfield sites” that are known to be historically contaminated. With gaps in historic information, environmental consultants are being used as a so called “indepedent assessor” of development potential especially for housing, where sites historically would be titally unsuitable for such dwellings. EC’s are being paid by their clients to compile a report (usually a desk top study), which will ultimately seek to allow their client to get planning permission, so is it likely that they would compile a report detrimental to their clients’ chances by incorporating any harmful facts to that end?
Just as tradesmen are scrutinised on programmes such as “rogue traders” for shoddy or incomplete work- we wondered what regulation exists in growing white collar industries such as this one, where the stakes are considerable- but what of the quality of individual undertaking the work?
WHAT DID THEY KNOW
“The Environment Agency has no remit to regulate the environmental consultancy industry.
Environmental Consultants usually have a qualification in Environmental Engineering, Environmental Science, or some other science discipline. They should also have a thorough knowledge of environmental regulations so that they can advise their clients.
We make it very clear that the information supplied to us through consultants should be correct and that we will presume it to be so. It is the responsibility of the consultant and ultimately, his client, to ensure that the information supplied to us is the correct information. Liability for issues arising as a result of decisions which have been made based on incorrect information being supplied to the Environment Agency, rests with the consultant and his client.
A client who was dissatisfied with his consultant would have the right to report any dissatisfaction to Trading Standards and of course would be at liberty to employ a solicitor and take any civil action against his consultant that he believes is appropriate.”
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
We are not trying to imply that all environmental consultants may be crooked, but with no regulation according to this FOI request from key authorities into their methods, it is an industry where no doubt bad apples can prosper. Unfortunately the media and hence the public may only know of bad builders in the home service trade, but not the potential wrongdoings of the architects who got the buildings built in the first place