Update on the application of the Well-being of Future Generations Act to environmental permitting decisions
Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales said:
“Following on from an initial meeting in November 2017 with members of my Office, we are continuing to liaise with Natural Resources Wales (NRW). My office and legal representatives have met on a number of occasions with Natural Resources Wales and Welsh Government where some information has been shared.
“One meeting was attended by their Chair, Diane McCrea, their new Chief Executive, Clare Pillman, their legal representative and other Natural Resources Wales officials. The others were smaller and more technical groups. The last two meetings were attended by Welsh Government.
“At our first meeting, my team requested worked examples of how the Well-being of Future Generations Act had been applied to their (NRW) environmental permitting decisions and this was provided to us recently.
“We worked through the detail of some of the information at how Natural Resources Wales apply the Act and at the third meeting, and I welcome the constructive and cooperative nature of these meetings and look forward to working with Natural Resources Wales on how they, and other public bodies, further implement the Act in this area.
“As part of these ongoing discussions and through correspondence I have requested further information relating to specific decisions including the Barry biomass decision and this is an ongoing area of discussion.
“My role in considering this issue of permitting and its landscape will take time as it extends not just to the decisions taken such as in respect of (Barry) Biomass UK No2 Ltd and Hazrem Environmental Ltd but to the whole approach to environmental permitting which involves a broader range of public bodies not just Natural Resources Wales and it extends into planning.
“I know for example that residents in Barry and Cwmfelinfach are expressing concerns about noise, emissions and pollution among others generated by plants in local areas, and I am certainly sympathetic to the distress being caused.
“I do not have any express powers in law to address these specific concerns. It is clear that I cannot request that a permit is suspended or request that action is taken in respect of any breach of permitting terms and conditions. I often have to stress that I am not an extra layer of appeal in permitting or planning.
“However, I do have the power to conduct a review which is designed within the legislative framework to provide insight to me so that I can help a public body to improve the way in which they look at the long-term impact of their decisions (in general) and maximise their contribution to the goals in the future. Any recommendations I could then make would only apply for the future.
“I will continue to work with Natural Resources Wales to pursue the information I have requested to enable me to form a view on how the Act is used in permitting decisions.
“I am considering all my options at present and I look forward to working with Natural Resources Wales and Welsh Government to further the implementation of the Act in planning, permitting and licensing activities.”