I spotted last week a Defra discussion paper for the triennial review of the Environment Agency and Natural England - each organisation is subject to a periodic review by its sponsor department. I have seen one commentator suggest that combining the review for the two bodies gives a strong indication that a merger may be in contemplation. Defra certainly have a significant number of non-departmental government bodies, executive agencies and others under its jurisdiction, so it's easy to see pressure to combine roles and responsibilities where that might be possible.
The paper suggests the following, in favour of a merger. “The resulting delivery landscape would consist of a single body having the role to protect natural resources and possibly also the marine environment, regulate and work with businesses, provide environmental advice and input to planning processes. For customers and stakeholders, this scenario should in time provide a more efficient, effective single body, leading to a sustainable swifter decision making for, and lower burdens on, businesses and developers. Resilience, technical expertise and incident response capacity should also be maintained, or enhanced, in a single organisation” (paras 62 and 63).
The nub of the question for landowners, planners and developers is whether a merged body could and would deliver decisions more quickly and more effectively.