You are here:

Environment Agency and Defra Sponsorship



The Environment Agency was established by the 1995 Environment Act and became fully operational on 1 April 1996. The Agency is a Non-Departmental Public Body of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and an Assembly Sponsored Public Body of the National Assembly for Wales. It employs around 13,000 staff and in 2006/07 had an operational budget of around £1.002bn, of which £603m was grant from the Agency's sponsoring Government Departments. The Environment Agency's remit covers the whole of England and Wales; about 15 million hectares of land, 36,000 kilometres of river and 5,000 kilometres of coastline, including 2 million hectares of coastal waters. The Agency's principal aim is to protect and enhance the environment and in doing so to make a contribution towards the objective of achieving sustainable development. In support of this aim, the Agency has a broad range of functions which include:

  • Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control
  • Integrated Pollution Control
  • Radioactive Substances Regulation
  • Waste Management
  • Water Quality
  • Land Quality
  • Water Resources
  • Flood Risk Management
  • Navigation
  • Conservation
  • Recreation
  • Fisheries

Further information on particular functions can be found on the Environment Agency website (see link below), or on the relevant policy sections of this website.


The Agency's structure is based on seven English regional offices and one in Wales (Environment Agency Wales), which operate through 26 Areas. Regions and Areas ensure national priorities are delivered at a local level while taking account of the needs of local communities and stakeholders. Head Office is responsible for corporate management of the Agency, including policy development, strategic and operational objective setting and performance management.

Role of Defra and the Secretary of State in relation to the Environment Agency

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has the lead sponsorship responsibility for the Agency as a whole and it is accountable to the Secretary of State for its day to day operations in England.

In particular, the Secretary of State is responsible for the appointment of the Environment Agency Board (with the exception of one member appointed by the National Assembly for Wales) and its Chairman; overall policy on the environment and sustainable development within which the EA undertakes its work; the setting of objectives for the EA's functions and its contribution to sustainable development; the approval of its budget and payment of Government grant to the Agency for its activities in England and approval of its regulatory and charging regimes.

Further information
See also

Page last modified: 3 January 2008