Nature charities benefit from Environment Agency civil sanctions

Nature trusts and charities in East Anglia have benefited from donations made by environmental offenders under a new 'civil sanctions' regime.

In the first year since the new powers have been available, the Environment Agency (EA) has accepted 14 offers from companies in the east of England which had breached packaging regulations.

Normally, such cases would result in a prosecution or formal caution, but instead voluntary donations totalling �184,626 have been made as part of the new focus on investing in environmental clean-up rather than charging fines.

These 'enforcement undertakings' are included in a raft of non-criminal or civil enforcement options designed to encourage business operators to make amends, come into compliance and prevent recurrence.

Among the local, national and international charities to benefit from these donations are the How Hill Trust, which manages the study centre and 365-acre estate in the Norfolk Broads near Ludham.

Trust director Simon Partridge said the donation of �4,386 had been gratefully received.

'We were really delighted to receive the money and it is no exaggeration to say it was a real bonus to our very limited finances,' he said. 'The money enabled the How Hill Trust to further develop our environmental education work in the Norfolk Broads.

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'For example, a large part of the money was spent on overhauling our two boats ensuring they continue to meet strict health and safety regulations. This means, of course, that we can offer boat trips to our young visitors giving an even better environmental educational experience when they visit.'

Other donations include �1,919 to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, �4,000 split between the Woodland Trust and Wildfowl and Wetland Trust.

Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust has received more than �17,000 under the new scheme, which has been spent on environmental projects including the installation of an otter holt and the restoration of flower rich meadows.

The EA also received �23,000 for its costs in investigating infringements of the Packaging Waste Regulations.

As well as enforcement undertakings, the EA can also issue compliance notices, restoration notices, monetary penalties and stop notices under the new civil sanctions regime.

An EA spokesman said civil sanctions provided an alternative means of dealing with legitimate businesses and did not replace any current enforcement tools – with 'serious offenders' still facing prosecution.

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