Environmental Protection: member survey results

08 March 2023, Ciaran Donaghy, CIEH Senior Policy and Public Affairs Executive

Row of wind turbines

Over the past few months, CIEH has begun pursuing a new direct member engagement strategy, including bringing members into the active development of CIEH policy and direction.

In December we ran a member policy survey on the controversial issue surrounding the UK Government’s plans to introduce a new regulatory framework for precision-bred food products, which produced some fascinating results. You can find my blog outlining the results of this survey here.

We wanted to follow up on the success of that survey by surveying members working in the field of environmental protection to gauge their attitudes on a wide array of topics related to environmental protection.

I am delighted to say that this survey, much like our first member policy survey, got a great response, showing that these are topics that EHPs and EHOs feel passionate about, and the results were most illuminating.

Looking at the findings of the environmental protection survey, members were first asked to pick three policy areas that they wanted to see CIEH prioritise in 2023.

The overwhelming majority of members (73%) believed air quality should be a priority policy area for CIEH. On other areas, however, there was less of a consensus. Nearly half (45%) felt noise pollution should be a priority, 43% selected water quality, the same percentage climate change, and the same again for statutory nuisance. A total of 37% selected planning reform.

We then asked members whether you want to see greater regulation of domestic solid fuels in urban areas where there are on-grid alternatives. An overwhelming majority (77%) either strongly agreed (43%) or agreed (34%). This reinforces the policy stance CIEH has taken recently, confirming that members feel we should indeed be taking a firmer stance in calling for greater regulation in this area. For the record, 13% neither agreed nor disagreed, 7% disagreed and 2% “strongly” disagreed.

The next question we asked was whether, as part of our ‘Healthy Air Campaign’, members supported the idea of an annual mean concentration target for PM2.5 levels in England to be 10 µg per m3 or below by 2030. Again, a sizeable majority (66%) felt this was a suitable target for CIEH to support and push for. This compared with 21% who said they did not know and 14% who felt it wasn’t the right target to aim for.

Alongside our member policy survey, we ran a LinkedIn poll asking our wider CIEH network to express their views on these two questions and we were pleased to find that the results of these polls mirrored the results of our member policy survey.

We also asked whether members felt CIEH should support the development of onshore windfarms. The feedback here was more nuanced. Broadly, members felt, yes, this was something CIEH should support going forward. Nearly two-thirds (64%) either strongly agreed (30%) or agreed (34%). However, drilling down into the additional members comments it was clear many respondents were also worried about the impact such developments can have on noise pollution.

Some members made the important point that current noise guidelines on onshore windfarm development need to be updated to reflect this possible expansion, as highlighted by the comment below:

“I agree, but not to the detriment of those that might be living nearby. There needs to be some real thought about their location and probably the need for more up to date noise guidance based on lessons learned so far.”

This illustrates that there are broader environmental protection considerations that have to be taken into account should we campaign for the development of renewable technologies such as onshore windfarms. However, with up-to-date noise guidance, which CIEH remain willing to support the government in developing, such impacts could be mitigated.

It is safe to say that our second member policy survey, much like the first one, was an extremely useful exercise, having produced some actionable insights that will support our working going forward. We have learned that our members are passionate about promoting air quality as a policy priority and have validated the various policy positions CIEH have taken with respect to regulating domestic solid fuels and what they feel are suitable air quality targets for the CIEH to campaign for. The views of our members in both this, and future surveys will play a direct role in shaping the direction and development of CIEH policy and campaigning in these areas. We look forward to launching further member policy surveys across the wide array of environmental health issues in future and hope even more members engage in this process as it continues to develop.

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