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Air quality guidance for developers

Air quality will be taken into account when assessing developments that are sensitive to air quality and for developments which may lead to potential significant emissions to the air.

What is air quality?

Poor air quality affects human health and the environment. As part of its approach to sustainable development, the government has adopted the UK National Air Quality Strategy (NAQS) to deal with the assessment and management of air quality. It sets out health-based targets for seven pollutants which local authorities are obliged to meet.

Air quality objectives (from Air Quality Strategy 2007)

Pollutant Concentration (microgrammes per cubic metre)* Measured as Date to be achieved by
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons 0.00025 Annual mean 31 December 2010
Benzene 16.25 Running annual mean 31 December 2003
Benzene 5.0 Annual mean 31 December 2010
1,3 butadiene 2.25 Running annual mean 31 December 2003
Carbon monoxide 10,000 Maximum daily running 8 hour mean 31 December 2003
Lead 0.5 Annual mean 31 December 2004
Lead 0.25 Annual mean 31 December 2008
Nitrogen dioxide 200 (not to be exceeded more than 18 times a year) 1 hour mean 31 December 2005
Nitrogen dioxide 40 Annual mean 31 December 2005
Particles of 10 micrometres aerodynamic diameter or less (PM10) 50 (not to be exceeded more than 35 times a year) Daily mean 31 December 2004
PM10 40 Annual mean 31 December 2004
Particles of 2.5 micrometres aerodynamic diameter or less (PM2.5) 25 Annual mean 2020
PM2.5 Target of 15 per cent reduction in concentrations in urban background Annual mean Between 2010 and 2020
Sulphur dioxide 350 (not to be exceeded more than 24 times a year) 1 hour mean 31 December 2004
Sulphur dioxide 125 (not to be exceeded more than three times a year) 24 hour mean 31 December 2004
Sulphur dioxide 266 (not to be exceeded more than 35 times a year) 15 minute mean 31 December 2005
Ozone 100 (not to be exceeded more than 10 times a year) 8 hour running or hourly mean 31 December 2005

*A microgramme is a millionth of a gramme.

Although national policies on air pollution are expected to deliver countrywide improvement on air quality, it is recognised that in some local hot spots, because of transport, commercial or industrial activities, air quality will remain poor and will require a more focussed approach to improve air quality.

Local authorities are required to carry out a review and assessment of air quality within their area. This involves the consideration of present and likely future air quality against the air quality objectives set out in the NAQS. In areas where air quality objectives are not likely to be met by the relevant target date, local authorities are required to declare an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) and develop an action plan in pursuit of the air quality objectives.

The main findings of the review and assessment of air quality in Medway to date are that the government's Air Quality Objectives are not likely to be achieved in three areas. In these locations air quality does not meet the NAQS objectives for the pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

The following three Air Quality Management Areas were declared on Friday, 6 August 2010:

  • Pier Road, Gillingham - An area along Pier Road, Gillingham between Church Street and Kelly Drive
  • High Street, Rainham - An area along the High Street, Rainham between High Dewar Road and Quinnell Street
  • Central Medway - One large central AQMA which includes Frindsbury Road, Cuxton Road, Strood Centre, Rochester Centre and Chatham Centre and also Luton Road and Rainham Road, Chatham.

Air quality-sensitive development

The National Air Quality Objectives only apply at locations where the public could be exposed to pollution for a long enough time for there to be any measurable health effect. The council considers that housing, hospitals and schools may be regarded as development sensitive to air quality.

Sources of poor air quality

The main sources of poor air quality in Medway are road traffic and industrial activity.

Instances where there would be significant concerns about the air quality impact of a proposed development would be where:

  • the development would result in the designation of a new AQMA (i.e. cause a breach of an objective in an area where the public is likely to be exposed over the relevant period)
  • the development would result in an extension of an area covered by an existing AQMA
  • there would be conflicts with measures contained within the council’s Action Plan for the AQMA
  • air quality objectives were predicted to be breached and the development significantly increased concentrations of the pollutants.

A development may generally be considered to have an acceptable air quality impact if the objectives set out in the NAQS are met at the location of sensitive receptors:

  • without the need for mitigation measures or
  • with the implementation of mitigation measures agreed with the council and secured through the grant of planning permission and/or any associated planning obligations.

Mitigation measures

It may be appropriate in some circumstances for the developer to fund mitigating measures elsewhere to offset any increase in emissions as a consequence of the proposed development. This would normally be in the form of a Section 106 Agreement attached to a planning consent. Conditions may be imposed which seek to safeguard air quality.

Among these may be:

  • restrictions on certain types of vehicle
  • setting of emission standards for vehicles to be used at the site
  • car parking restrictions
  • parking management to reduce the number of cars entering into an area: options include reducing the number of spaces available, increasing charges or limiting the maximum stay
  • implementation of green travel plans
  • building in public transport, cycling and walking infrastructures in the initial stages
  • requiring the developer to fund schemes for air quality monitoring
  • use of cleaner fuels for energy and heating
  • regulation of industrial emissions by the use of best available techniques (BAT) and the use of better technology to reduce emissions.