ADEPT comment on the Air Quality Strategy consultation

The government’s recent Air Quality Strategy consultation has caused widespread concern. Hannah Bartram, Chief Executive of the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT), talks about the joint response from local authority membership organisations.

Air quality, and reducing our emissions to improve it, is a critically important issue. It was, therefore, disappointing that only ten days was given to respond to the government’s consultation on its draft Air Quality Strategy.

This hugely important document, which sets out what local authorities must do to tackle air pollution, was overshadowed by the fallout from the short consultation period. Many bodies expressed concerns that there was insufficient time to respond – particularly membership organisations such as ADEPT – and the consultation window was during the Easter holidays. For local authorities it also fell during a pre-election period when local communications are restricted. With the government’s response published just a week after the consultation closed, it felt to many like a rubber stamping exercise rather than a genuine consultation that would influence the final strategy.

Over the last 12 months ADEPT has been working more closely with other local authority membership organisations on its engagement with central government. This has included a written response to the House of Commons inquiry into levelling up, which was based on our collaborative work with the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), the Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH), the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) and the Local Government Association (LGA).

Having the opportunity to provide a local authority perspective on emerging government policy is essential to ensuring it is informed, meaningful and deliverable. As with the levelling up agenda, national policies often impact more than one area of responsibility locally and it makes sense to give greater weight and context to our responses by speaking collectively where we can.

Defra’s Air Quality Strategy consultation was ADEPT’s most recent collaboration. It is in no small part thanks to our partners, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) and the ADPH, that our joint response was pulled together under such challenging circumstances.

Putting the timescale issue to one side, our main concern with the strategy is that it places much of the responsibility for reducing air pollution on local authorities. The government wants local authorities to enforce existing air quality legislation, such as smoke-free zones, but without any additional resources to do so. What we actually need is for the government to take the lead on providing a robust statutory framework that is supported by additional funding to deliver enforcement locally.

Some sources of emissions, such as those from industry and agriculture, fall outside of local authorities’ responsibilities leaving them with very little power to intervene in those areas. Success in reducing harmful emissions and meeting national targets also requires action by the government, business and individuals. It is unhelpful to single out councils for taking insufficient action.

ADEPT has argued strongly that the government needs to join up its air quality and transport ambitions. While the new Local Transport Plan guidance will be a key framework to guide local planning and investment, it is important that Defra is engaged in its production to ensure that the Air Quality Strategy is adequately reflected. Also, given the health impacts of the harmful particulate matter, PM2.5, public health should be at the centre of future national planning policy to improve people’s health and wellbeing, reduce the social cost of poor health, and deliver on levelling up.

There are, however, aspects of the strategy that we support. For example, we agree that there must be more powers in regulating domestic wood burners, which are the biggest source of PM2.5 in the country. But as new legislation comes into play, such as the ban on selling traditional coal for household burning, there is an expectation that local authorities will carry out the enforcement even though there is no additional funding to do it.

Ultimately, we need a robust framework that aligns local authority responsibilities with clear guidance, updated legislation and the necessary financial support. We are not going meet our air quality ambitions if the strategy underpinning them can only deliver localised action that is piecemeal and disjointed. Local authorities cannot win this battle alone – central government must enable the urgent action that will reduce harmful emissions and deliver cleaner air to our communities.

To see the CIEH, ADPH and ADEPT joint response to the government’s Air Quality Strategy consultation, please visit:

More information about ADEPT can be found on its website:


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top