A joint committee of MPs has endorsed the government’s choice of former construction-industry chief executive Alan Lovell as the next chair of the Environment Agency.
Members of parliament’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and Environmental Audit Committee reached their decision following a joint pre-appointment session with Lovell last week.
Despite backing the appointment, they noted “significant gaps” in Lovell's sector knowledge, including on the decreasing enforcement rate on key issues such as sewage discharge into waterways.
The committees welcomed his promise to return to them with views on how to fix those issues after he has spent some time in post.
They added that they were “encouraged” by Lovell’s commitment not to proceed with any restructuring of the EA until environmental-protection benefits that such a restructuring would deliver had been identified.
Sir Robert Goodwill, who chairs the Efra committee, said Lovell would bring “strong private-sector experience” to the EA, which has a £1.4bn annual budget and 10,000 staff.
“There’s a huge job to be done on preventing the pumping of raw sewage into our waterways,” he said. “Polluters must pay, so I look forward to Mr Lovell delivering clear, measurable progress in this area.”
Environmental Audit Committee chair Philip Dunne said Lovell clearly had a better understanding of some aspects of the EA’s work than others.
“He will now have ample opportunity to get to grips with the full range of the EA’s role and activities,” Dunne said. “We were encouraged by his enthusiasm to embrace innovation to address major environmental challenges. We look forward to engaging with him over the coming months.”
Lovell is a former chief executive of construction firms Costain and Jarvis, and of low-carbon power firm Infinis.
He is currently chair of construction and services firm Interserve Group and glazing company Safestyle UK. Lovell is also senior independent director at insulation and construction-products company SIG.
He is due to take over as EA chair in September, when Emma Howard-Boyd’s second term in the role ends.