Our complaints process is open to everybody and free to use. We will keep you updated on the progress of your complaint. There are four main stages in our complaints process:
You can submit a complaint by visiting our website and completing the complaint form on our online portal, or by downloading a copy so you can fill it out and post or email it back to us.
We will acknowledge that we have received your complaint. If you submit your complaint using the online portal, you should receive confirmation straight away. If you submit your complaint by post or email, we will send your acknowledgement to you upon receipt.
We will give your complaint an ID number. We will include this in your acknowledgement. Please use this number in all further correspondence with us about the same complaint.
If you don’t receive an ID number within ten working days of submitting your complaint form, please contact us so we can put this right.
We will carry out an initial check to confirm that your complaint meets the criteria for complaining to the OEP.
At this stage, we may contact you to clarify details or to ask for more information. That’s why we ask for your email or postal address. We also use your contact details to keep you informed about the progress of your complaint.
If we think that your complaint does not meet all the criteria, we will let you know and explain why.
If our initial check suggests that your complaint may meet all the criteria for complaining to the OEP, we will assess the complaint in more detail to confirm this.
During this step we will review the evidence to understand which environmental law(s) may have been broken. We will contact the public authority concerned to confirm that you have completed their complaint procedure. We may also put the substance of the complaint to them and ask for their comments and any relevant evidence they are able to supply. As the Interim OEP, we will hold any information that we receive for further consideration by the OEP once it is established and operational as a legal body later this year.
If, in an exceptional case, we think that there is a threat of serious and imminent harm to the environment or human health based upon a complaint, we may escalate this to the Defra Minister or Secretary of State or Northern Ireland Secretary.
After looking at your complaint in more detail, we will conclude our assessment of whether your complaint meets the criteria for complaining to the OEP. We will let you know the outcome.
Once the OEP is established as an independent statutory body later this year, it will review all the complaints that were received by the Interim OEP.
This will include complaints that the Interim OEP judged to be outside the criteria for complaining to the OEP. The OEP will let you know if your complaint is going to be investigated.
Who can I complain about?
Your complaint should relate to a “public authority”. The Environment Bill defines a public authority as a person carrying out any function of a public nature, apart from certain bodies which are specifically excluded such as a court or tribunal, or Parliament. Public authorities therefore include central and local government, government agencies and other public sector organisations. They can also include private or third sector organisations, but only if they are carrying out functions of a public nature.
Do I need a lawyer to help me submit a complaint?
No. The complaint form has been designed to be filled in by anyone.
Are there any geographic restrictions on complaints?
We can receive complaints about suspected breaches of environmental law by public authorities in relation to England, Northern Ireland and reserved, UK-wide matters.
If you have a complaint about environmental law in Scotland please contact Environmental Standards Scotland. Their website and contact details can be found at: www.environmentalstandards.scot.
If your complaint relates to Wales please see: gov.wales/raising-concern-about-functioning-environmental-law
What to expect from the complaints process
Until the OEP is fully established as an independent legal body, the Interim OEP will receive and validate complaints about public authorities failing to comply with environmental law, as provided for under the Environment Bill. As the Interim OEP, we do not have statutory powers to investigate or make enforcement decisions. However, once the OEP has been legally established, it will consider all the complaints received by the Interim OEP. This will allow the OEP to determine which complaints to investigate using its legal powers where appropriate.
How long will it take to resolve my complaint?
We are unable to say how long it will take to resolve your complaint, as every complaint is different. In addition, we will need to speak to public authorities and the time that it takes for them to respond to us may vary.
Not happy with our service?
If you are not happy with our service, please let us know. You can do this by emailing TheOEPEnquiries@defra.gov.uk and mark your email for the attention of the Complaints Manager. Or by writing to:
Interim Office for Environmental Protection
Worcestershire County Hall
Telephone: 03300 416 581
If your complaint relates to Northern Ireland, you can email TheOEPEnquiries@daera-ni.gov.uk and mark your email for the attention of the Complaints Manager. Or by writing to:
Complaints Manager, Interim OEP
c/o Environment Bill Team,
Department of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs
Environmental Policy Division
2nd Floor Klondyke Building
Gasworks Business Park
Belfast, BT7 2JA
Telephone: 03300 416 581
The Complaints Manager will review how our staff haves handled your complaint. Once the Complaints Manager has carried out their review, they will write to you telling you what further action, if any, the Interim OEP (or the statutory OEP once established) can take to resolve your complaint. The Complaints Manager will also advise you how you might be able to progress your complaint within the organisation or refer you to Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO).
If you remain dissatisfied, you can ask your MP to refer the matter to PHSO. The PHSO's role is to investigate complaints referred by MPs from members of the public who feel they have suffered an injustice through poor administration by government departments and certain public organisations.
PHSO is independent of the government and the organisations it investigates. PHSO has wide-ranging powers to investigate complaints. Their services are free. For further details, you can contact PHSO's helpline on 0345 015 4033. The helpline is currently open Monday to Thursday from 8.30am to 5.00pm and Friday from 8.30am to 12pm, except bank holidays. Calls are charged at local or national rates.