Defra proposes streamlined local air quality reporting

Government consults on Local Air Quality Management changes, which seek to ‘reduce regulatory burden’ on councils

Local air quality reporting is to be streamlined in England, with councils required only to produce one annual improvement report in future, under plans launched for consultation by Defra today (December 19).

Under the current Local Air Quality Management (LAQM) system, which was established in the Environment Act 1995, all local authorities must regularly review and assess air quality in their areas for several pollutants against national objectives.

Defra's Nobel House headquarters in London

Defra’s Nobel House headquarters in London

If an objective will not be achieved by a certain date, the authority concerned must declare an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) and produce an action plant (AQAP) setting out how it intends to deal with the problem.

After declaring an AQMA, councils are required to carry out further assessments, then updating and screening assessments, as well as progress reports and detailed assessments.

However, Defra is proposing to streamline this process, rescinding some of the above reporting requirements and replacing them with a requirement for councils to prepare a single annual improvement status report — the details of which Defra said will be consulted upon after regulatory changes are competed.

According to Defra’s consultation document, these changes will “ensure reports are more outward facing and informative to members of the public and local stakeholders” as well as providing, in the long term, annual cost savings from the reduced reporting burden.

An estimated breakdown of costs included in the consultation documents suggests that proposed changes would see an overall cost saving for diffusion tube monitoring of just over £1.5 million, and a cost saving for automatic monitoring of £3.7 million from current baseline levels.

Pollutant removal

Also up for consultation as part of Defra’s changes to the LAQM system is the removal of four pollutants — 1, 3 Butadiene, benzene, carbon monoxide and lead — from reporting regulations.

There are currently no AQMAs declared for these pollutants, so Defra said removing them from the regulations should help councils to “focus their resources on reducing current air quality problems”.

And, as part of Defra’s proposed changes, the Department is also seeking to encourage councils to “have regard” to particulate matter PM2.5 in the reporting system, although it will not be a regulatory requirement for councils to monitor and model the pollutant.

Policy and technical guidance more generally is also to be revised to provide “further clarity on roles and responsibilities” on LAQM for councils.

The six week consultation has been launched today as part of Defra’s ongoing review of the legislation, which is in turn part of the Department’s ‘Red Tape Challenge’ to reduce regulatory and administrative burdens.

The consultation closes on January 30 2015 and is aimed principally at air quality practitioners in England, although Defra also wants to hear from “as wide a range of interested parties as possible”. A summary of responses will then be published online early next year.

In addition, part two of the consultation launched today will be subject to a further, more detailed consultation in late 1995, Defra said.

It follows on from a consultation held in July year by the Department (see story) on the legislation, which prompted negative responses from the likes of Environmental Protection UK and King’s College London. A further stakeholder workshop was held in September 2014.


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Graham Cliff.
Graham Cliff.
9 years ago

I researched air pollution and its particles (to 0.1um) over 40 years ago.
The smallest of particles is the cause of ill health and the law just does not regulate any of them!

Vic Steblin
Vic Steblin
9 years ago

Excellent progress in fine tuning regulations, like less lead concern due to unleaded gas. But I would like to see emphasis on reducing wood smoke, since it is so complicated and so loaded with pollutants. People can wear layers of clothes in colder houses to show concern for others and the environment.

9 years ago

Watering down the LAQM process and reducing monitoring is pathetic. One of the things we are good at is reporting the current state of air quality – we should keep on providing this much needed service.

Also not a great idea to consult over Christmas and New Year – who came up with that one?

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