The OEP has a mission to protect and improve the environment by holding government and other public authorities to account. Where we act, we will act strategically.
We cannot investigate every complaint we receive or offer personal redress, but the information we receive through complaints informs our work. For example helping to identify wider thematic or systemic issues or concerns about how an environmental law is implemented which we can address through our other functions.
What we cannot do
- provide legal advice or mediate in disputes
- put right a personal injustice
- offer compensation
- overturn previous decisions
- always be on your side when you complain to us
There is no right of review or appeal in relation to our final decision about a complaint.
There may be other organisations that can help you - for example, an Ombudsman or an organisation listed on our Information and Useful Contacts page.
The stages of our process
Stage 1. Before you contact us
If the public authority you are contacting us about has a relevant internal complaints procedure, you need to complete this before coming to the OEP. Find out more about what we can investigate and complete our eligibility checker to ensure the issue meets our criteria. You will also need to gather evidence related to your complaint.
Stage 2. Send your completed form to us
You can contact us by using our online form or by downloading a copy to fill in and posting or emailing it back to us. Our form has been designed to be filled in by anyone. Find out more about submitting a complaint.
We will acknowledge your complaint and give you an ID number. Please use this ID number in all further correspondence with us about your complaint.
Stage 3. We review the information provided
We will carry out a review to make sure that:
- you have already completed the relevant public authority’s internal complaints process
- that the information you have provided is about a possible failure to comply with environmental law by a public authority.
We will contact the public authority to confirm that you have completed its complaints procedure and gather any additional information we may need from them. We have guidance for public authorities and how they should work with us. You can submit additional information during this stage if it is relevant and/or there are new developments. We will let you know if we need further information. This crucial stage may take a number of months to complete, as we must ensure that we are in receipt of all relevant information that will assist us in arriving at the most appropriate decision.
If your complaint does not pass these checks, we will let you know and explain why.
Stage 4. We determine what action we can take
We will consider what action we can take. We will determine this based on the factors set out in our enforcement policy and strategy. As part of this, we will determine whether a potential failure to comply with environmental law by a public authority would be, if it occurred, a serious failure.
We will let you and the public authority know the result of our determination.
Stage 5. Cases where we decide to investigate
Where we decide to investigate, the purpose will be to assess whether or not the public authority has broken environmental law. If we think it has, we can make recommendations to address the failure.
We may ask you or the public authority for more information as we undertake the investigation.
We will keep you updated on our progress with your complaint. However, for reasons of confidentiality and legal restrictions we may not be able to provide you with specific details of our investigation while it is underway.
Stage 6. Outcome
For all complaints received we will let you know the outcome once a decision is reached. If we decided to investigate, we will produce an investigation report recording our conclusions and recommendations at the end of every investigation, unless we take a case to court.
Where we take a case to court, the court judgment replaces the need for a report.
Managing conflicts of interest
We have measures in place to manage potential conflicts of interest:
- our staff have access to independent legal advice
- our staff work under the leadership and direction of an independent Board
- complaints are handled and processed on an independent IT system
Complaints about our service and positive feedback
We welcome feedback from those who have interacted with us and recognise the value of complaints and compliments in informing our service development. If you have a compliment or are unhappy with the service we have provided, please contact us by email or post.