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Water Events

Time for real debate on river regulation


Environment Agency chief executive James Bevan says he wants better regulation, not to water down standards

A swimmer jumps into the River Wharfe in Yorkshire A swimmer jumps into the River Wharfe in Yorkshire. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

Your article (Environment Agency chief supports plan to weaken river pollution rules, 19 August) is wrong to say that I “endorsed a proposal to water down laws on cleanliness of polluted rivers, lakes and coastlines after Brexit”. What I said was that the water framework directive was “a candidate for thoughtful reform to deliver even better outcomes”.

This was as part of a speech titled In Praise of Red Tape: Getting Regulation Right – which can be read online at – in which I said we should have a debate about which bits of inherited EU environmental law we should keep or change; and that the test should be whether changing the law “will allow us to regulate better and achieve higher environmental standards”.

I also said regulation is essential to protect the environment; that it works, which is why many of our rivers are cleaner than at any time since the Industrial Revolution; that it needs teeth, including in tackling water companies which pollute our waters; and that it should aim to enhance the environment, not just protect it. The Guardian is rightly keen on debate: I hope you will support one on this vital issue.
James Bevan
Chief executive, Environment Agency

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