Smarter Guidance and Data is an outcome of the Red Tape Challenge. It is working to make it easier, quicker and clearer to understand what environmental rules apply and simpler to report essential environmental and farming data. This will make it cheaper for businesses and others to comply with regulations and achieve strong environmental standards.

A thorough review of guidance and information obligations under the banner of the Smarter Environmental Regulation Review concluded that they are important for supporting regulation but have become more costly and complex than they need to be. That is why we are inviting your comments on how guidance and information obligations reporting can be improved.


Over the next 12 months, Defra and its regulators will make significant progress to reform environmental guidance on www.gov.uk. This will make it simpler, quicker and clearer for businesses and others to understand and comply with their obligations. The approach will include other guidance areas as the project develops. Defra and its regulators are also simplifying all the information required by businesses to make sure it is really needed and it’s as simple as it should be to submit.

This is a collaborative project, involving Defra and its regulators (in particular Natural England and The Environment Agency). It will also include joint working with other government departments where appropriate.

This work will only apply to guidance and data reporting applicable in England but we will work with the Devolved Administrations.

Findings So Far

  • Over 5,000 environmental guidance documents issued by government extending to over 100,000 pages. The overwhelming feedback is that it can be difficult, time-consuming and confusing to work out what you need to do.
  • 250 separate data reporting requirements which businesses have to report to different places, at different times, in different formats and with varying degrees of duplication.
  • Read more here

Opportunities and Benefits

Smarter Guidance and Data will help to save businesses time and money, while maintaining or improving the effectiveness of regulations. For example, we should be able to reduce the time needed for new businesses to find out about their obligations by at least 80%.

Reforms to information obligations will focus on the information that is really needed and used and work to remove duplication. We are aiming to reduce the time businesses spend reporting information to Defra and its regulators by 20%. We also want to release regulator resources of at least £10m a year for more productive activity.

This work coincides with public bodies moving web content to www.gov.uk. Most Defra agency guidance will be found here, in one place, in the same format. We are working with the Government’s Digital Service to improve customer experience as part of this move.

Public Engagement

Public feedback is critical to the success of these reforms.  We want to hear from businesses the public and other stakeholders on how guidance and reporting requirements can be made more straightforward.