How were Panel members selected?
The Expert Panel has not been set up to advise government but is a Panel of individual experts acting on a voluntary basis that are available to provide independent assistance to Local Authorities when making difficult contaminated land determinations using the revised Part 2A Statutory Guidance. On that basis there was no formal open competition for membership.
Stakeholder groups (including EIC & SAGTA) were approached for recommendations but it was made clear that membership is on an individual basis – there are no affiliations. A number of members were also invited to join based on their expertise in the area of Part 2A. The decision to directly appoint panel members, as opposed to holding an open competition, was agreed with Ministers.
What are the Panel’s Terms of Reference, scope, purpose and authority to act?
The Terms of Reference and scope for the Panel’s work were agreed at the Panel’s first meeting in December 2012 and are available to view on the CL:AIRE website. The purpose of the Panel is to act as a sounding board and provide some independent assistance to Local Authorities when making difficult contaminated land determinations using the revised statutory guidance. There will be a particular focus on those sites that sit on the category 2/3 border and priority will be given to cases with a human health receptor.
The establishment of an Expert Panel was proposed during the Statutory Guidance review as a way to help the contaminated land sector use the revised guidance in the way it is intended. Defra has given the Panel the authority to act in order to help promote consistency in Part 2A decision making through the development of case studies from the Panel’s outputs. These will be made available to the wider sector as evidence of best practice.
How is the Panel’s independence, integrity, conduct and performance to be maintained?
The Panel is a self-regulating body and it is assumed that the Panel itself will ensure that all necessary requirements are met to protect its independence and integrity. As appointments were made on a voluntary basis and the panel has not been set up as a Government advisory body, there are no requirements for members to abide by the Code of Conduct for public appointments. However, Panel members have agreed to use the seven principles of public life as the standard for the work of the Panel.
To whom does the Panel answer?
Defra has overall responsibility for monitoring the Panel’s workings and outputs to confirm it is achieving its intended purpose.
Who will fund the Panel’s operation?
As the Panel works independently of Government or other organisations Panel members will not receive any remuneration for their work. However, Defra has agreed to reimburse panel members’ expenses and the costs of preparing the Case Studies. Defra is also covering the costs of the secretariat.
How long will the Panel be in existence?
We anticipate publishing 10-12 case studies over the next 1-2 years of the panel being in existence, although this will obviously depend on the extent that the panel’s assistance is sought by Local Authorities and the Panel’s continued usefulness.
How will the Panel’s advice and guidance be used?
The Panel offer independent assistance to Local Authorities when they are making decisions on determining sites under the revised Guidance. This assistance will take account of the overarching objectives of the regime and will be given in the context of the new considerations that are prescribed under the Guidance. These include the use of ‘normal’ background concentrations, any new generic assessment criteria (for example, Category 4 Screening Levels), the application of the test for deciding how and when socio-economic factors should be taken into account and establishing POSH before understanding whether there is SPOSH. The Panel will also take account of the content of the Risk Summaries.
How will the Panel’s outputs be publicised?
It is envisaged that the work of the Panel will be disseminated for wider consumption by the sector in the form of Case Studies. The Secretariat (CL:AIRE) are responsible for drafting the Case Studies and these will be published within an agreed timeframe.
Details of cases that are being scrutinised by the Panel are confidential but Panel members are able to give generalised feedback to others, as long as the principles of confidentiality in relation to specific sites are adhered to.
Will case studies be provided for all assistance provided by the Panel?
It is probable that if a Local Authority decides not to use the views of the Panel when making the final Part 2A decision, the objectives of the Panel would not be met. It would therefore not be a good use of resources to fund a written study of the case.
Can the advice of the Panel be challenged and through what channels?
There will be no need for challenge of the Panel’s assistance as the Regulator is not obliged to take account of the Panel’s view. The decision on whether or not to determine the land as contaminated rests entirely with Local Authorities as set out in the EPA 1990.
To what extent is the Panel liable for the assistance provided and decisions made based on it?
The Panel is not considered to be liable for the decisions made by Regulators. The decision to determine land as contaminated under Part 2A rests, as it must do according to the law, with the Regulator.
Will the Panel be insured as a group or will individuals PII cover any liability arising?
The Panel has satisfied itself as to the arrangements that are in place in relation to liability.
How are conflicts of interest being monitored?
The Chair and the Secretariat are responsible for ensuring that there are no conflicts of interest amongst the Panel and monitoring for any potential conflicts forms part of the screening process.
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