What is Smarter Guidance and Data?

Smarter guidance and data will make it easier quicker and clearer to understand what environmental rules apply and simpler to report essential environmental and farming information. These reforms are led by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and its regulators working with other government departments and bodies to improve the user experience.

What is the project’s scope?

The project aims to cover all environmental and non-environmental guidance and information obligations from Defra and its regulators.

Does this project extend beyond England?

The project will cover guidance and information obligations that apply in England but we will be working closely with the Devolved Administrations to cover any areas which affect them as part of the project.

What benefits do you hope to achieve with this project?

Our aim is that these reforms should result in a range of benefits including:

  • The potential to deliver savings to business in excess of £100 million per year.
  • A reduction of 80% in the volume of guidance reading material.
  • Reducing business uncertainty with regulations and increase compliance.
  • Reduce the time businesses spend providing information to us by 20%.
  • Free up at least £10m each year for regulators through improved data management.
  • Lower the barrier to entry for new businesses and reduce investment uncertainty for existing businesses.

Who is involved in this project?

This is a collaborative project involving Defra and all of its regulators including the Environment Agency, Natural England, Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), Marine Management Organisation (MMO), Rural Payments Agency (RPA) and Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD).  It will also include working with other government departments such the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) where appropriate, as well as with the Government Digital Service (GDS).

Could this project result in a reduction in environmental protection?

No. The aim of the project is to reduce regulatory burdens for businesses, while maintaining or improving the effectiveness of environmental regulation. This will be achieved by making it easier to understand how to comply with environmental regulation through clearer guidance and by ensuring information obligations fulfil policy objectives.


What is the process for simplifying guidance?

We are conducting a review of each guidance topic. We are using a user needs based approach to design all Defra content. We’ve based these user needs on information from users, such as: contact centre information, email enquiries, Google analytics data, research and surveys. Our new guidance will focus on information that government is uniquely placed to provide (such as explaining law, services or how to access your rights).

We are producing content plans which will demonstrate our method in developing new guidance. We will use feedback from this website to draft guidance for publication on gov.uk. Alternatively, where guidance has already been published on gov.uk, your comments will help to improve it. Guidance which will not be moved across to gov.uk will remain available to view on The National Archives.

How long will the guidance review process take?

Our target is to reduce the volume of Defra and its agencies’ guidance by 80% within the current Parliament.

How will you decide which of the existing guidance should be kept, revised or archived?

Where there is clear and demonstrable evidence of a need from users for guidance which only government is uniquely placed to provide guidance, it will be retained or revised. If however it does not meet these criteria it will most likely be archived.

How can I get involved?

Just look out for the plans we open to consultation on our site and give us your views. The plans are open for public comment for 4 to 6 weeks before closing.


What is the process for simplifying information obligations?

Smarter Data has been reviewing the information that businesses submit to Defra and its regulators to ensure we only ask for information that is needed and used and it is as simple as it should be to submit. Information obligations include both the one-off information required (for example for permit applications) and ongoing requirements (such as monitoring data).

Initial recommendations for reform, developed by independent experts in regulatory compliance from WSP Ltd, were subject to rigorous analysis involving businesses, regulators and policymakers. These plans for reform are now published in an implementation plan, outlining what we intend to do and when.

What progress has been made and what are the next steps?

We have now published our implementation plan for both phases of the project, which includes 114 reform measures in total. Of these, 13 have already been implemented and the ambition is to implement the majority by the end of March 2016.


If you are unable to complete the online consultations or require any further information please e-mail us.