Local Air Quality Management
Since 1997, all local authorities have been assessing the air quality in their area, under the Local Air Quality Management (LAQM). framework, andwhere a problem is found, action plans have been developed to address the situation.
The LAQM framework has been reviewed by the UK government and is again under discussion under the new Clean Air Strategy and new environmental legislation. Environmental Protection UK are lobbying for an effective system to improve air quality and protect human health, and have responding to the three rounds of consultation with robust responses. Details of the consultations and our responses can be found under Air Pollution Laws.
Under LAQM, local authorities must investigate the levels of pollution in their area. The most obvious method is to measure concentrations of pollutants directly. However monitoring equipment is often expensive and, and in order to obtain good quality data it usually needs to stay in place for long periods of time. This means monitors cannot give a complete picture of an area, so mathematical models are used to predict what the air quality would be like in other areas, based on measurements and known sources of pollution, such as roads and industrial plant.
Models are also used to predict trends in pollution levels, effects of weather conditions and source activity patterns, such as traffic levels, vehicle types, etc. Models can therefore be used to assess whether National Air Quality Objectives are likely to be breached in their target year. This process of monitoring, data collection and predictive modelling is known as “review and assessment”.
If, after carrying out review and assessment, a local authority finds that one or more of the National Air Quality Objectives is likely to be breached, it is obliged by law to declare an Air Quality Management Area. Over 200
local authorities have declared an Air Quality Management Area and the majority of these are for NO2 or PM10 .
Once an Air Quality Management Area is declared, the local authority must develop an Action Plan which sets out how it will use the powers at its disposal in pursuit of the National Air Quality Objectives. However, local authorities are not obliged to achieve the objectives, as they do not have sufficient control over all of the sources which could potentially give rise to the breach. For example in England, major roads and motorways are usually under the control of the Highways Agency, and large industrial processes, including power stations, are regulated by the Environment Agency. The great majority of Air Quality Management Areas have been declared because of emissions from road transport.
Guidance on LAQM
Environmental Protection UK (formerly NSCA) has produced six guidance notes for local authorities on Local Air Quality Management; these are intended to supplement and extend the Statutory Guidance published by the Government. One of these, on Air Quality Management Areas, was revised in the light of the first round of local authority air quality review and assessment studies. The six notes are:
- Consultation for LAQM: The How To Guide
- Air Quality Management Areas: Turning Reviews into Action
- Air Quality Management Areas: A Review of Procedures and Practice for Local Authorities
- Air Quality Action Plans: Interim Guidance for Local Authorities
- Air Quality: Planning for Action
- Development Control: Planning for Air Quality (2010 update), which has since been updated here.