In this blog post I take a look at the key sources of information that can be accessed to understand the environment in an area. As you might be aware, it is generally a legal requirement for environmental information collected by public bodies to be made available to the public. Pretty much all of this information can be accessed for free on the internet.
First we’ll look at the Environment Agency, who operate a site known as ‘what’s in your backyard’. Here you can access a broad range of environment related information covering issues such as flooding, nitrate vulnerable zones, landfill sites and permitted sites. You simply type in a postcode and icons appear on a map showing the location of the relevant issue of interest in an area.
Another useful source of information is the public registers. Much of the regulatory information collected by the Environment Agency has to be made publically available and this is often done here. Information such as environmental permitted sites, those that hold various waste licences as well as enforcement actions are available on the Environment Agency part of the gov.uk website. Here, the information can be accessed in a similar way to ‘what’s in my backyard’, by selecting a register of interest, the postcode (or other search type) and the radius of the search. As an example, I searched for the installation permitted sites in a 10km radius of Wimbledon and this is what was displayed:
By selecting an entry and clicking ‘show more data’, more information can be viewed. Interestingly, there is an option here to find out much more detailed information regarding the site of choice by either visiting for free the Environment Agency office, where the extended register is held, or by requesting that the information is sent to the requester, however for this last option there is a charge to cover administration costs. Although the site doesn’t state what this information is, it is assumed that it will be copies of the permit, permit application and enforcement documentation. Other public registers are available directly on the general gov.uk website; these include the registers for producer responsibility legislation (think WEEE, ELV, etc.), waste licences (from 27 March 2015) and large raised reservoirs.
The final source of environmental information to consider is the MAGIC website, which has been around since 2002. This website has numerous governmental contributors such as Natural England, Forestry Commission and Marine Management Organisation.
The information on Magic largely covers protected sites, such as those of special scientific interest or special areas of conservation, and the data is presented in an interactive map. By searching for a postcode (or other location identifier), and choosing the content of interest (general categories include habitats and species, land based schemes and landscape), the site displays a map with a key identifying the location of the designations of interest. To find out more information about each site, you are required to click on the ‘i’ icon at the top centre of the page, select the designation of interest and then click on the map to identify the feature. As an example, take a look at the designation around Wimbledon below:
Sometimes Magic can display a great deal of information and the map becomes confusing. However, you can view a table of the features for a radius around a certain point by selecting the site check icon (top centre of the page), choosing the centre point of interest on a map, selecting the radius of the search, clicking ‘buffer’ and then ‘site check’. Below, you can see the first page of results for a 5km search centred around our first Magic map above.
So as you can see, there’s loads of information on the environment available for where you work or live that can be accessed relatively easily. This information can be useful for many reasons including applying for an environmental permit, undertaking an environmental impact assessment or just taking an interest in what is around you.
What’s in your backyard? – http://apps.environment-agency.gov.uk/wiyby/
Environment agency public registers – http://epr.environment-agency.gov.uk/ePRInternet/SearchRegisters.aspx
Gov.uk – https://www.gov.uk/
MAGIC – http://magic.defra.gov.uk/ (check if up and running )
John Binns BSc (Hons), MSc, MSc, MIEMA
With over 15 years’ experience working in environment management, John Binns BSc (Hons) MSc MIEMA is an experienced environmental tutor and consultant with knowledge of health and safety management.