Air Quality Obligations
Up to 600 air pollution monitoring stations could be shut down under government plans to save money by cutting regulations. Ministers want to remove obligations on local authorities to assess air quality in their area of jurisdiction, which would result in less monitoring. Although it is proven that air pollution has adverse health effects, European limits are being breached across the country, with the highest levels in London. According to the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the limits for the air quality pollutant attributable to road traffic exhaust emissions, nitrogen dioxide, were exceeded in 40 of the UK’s 43 air quality zones in 2010.
With the aim of cutting red tape, DEFRA are proposing a radical overhaul of the current local air quality management regime which has been in place since 1997. The favoured option is to eradicate the need for councils to make detailed assessments of air pollution. DEFRA suggests the plans would save local authorities £50million over 10 years but this would lead to a reduction in air quality monitoring.
Mixed Opinions on New Air Quality Plans
The Scottish government have rejected the proposals, stating that they “would deliver no obvious benefit”. In England, the plans have been met with criticism by academics, industry experts and campaign groups.
Jethro Redmore, the REC Air Quality Impact Group Manager, stated that local authority monitoring forms much of our understanding of air pollution and warns that “if the closure of air pollution monitoring stations comes to fruition, the past ten years of air quality improvements will be undone and any future progress will be in jeopardy”. DEFRA insist that the aim is to “reinvigorate and refocus” local air quality management. It said that the current regime was “diagnosis driven” and that “the level of local reporting can distract resources from air quality improvement”. The consultation period has now ended and responses will be summarised and published in November.
Air Quality Assessments
REC Air Quality Consultants work in partnership with councils and use local authority monitoring data in their dispersion modelling assessments. REC’s Air Quality Assessments, through utilising air quality monitoring results, ensures road traffic pollution is kept to a minimum and helps local authorities safeguard against developments taking place in their area to make sure schools, hospitals and residential areas are not at risk from high pollution levels.