Local air quality management: policy guidance

Guidance to help local authorities with their local air quality management (LAQM) duties under Part IV of the Environment Act 1995.

10. Air quality and transport

10.1 Background

Cleaner Air for Scotland 2 (CAFS2) sets out the current policy framework for air quality and transport and describes the key responsibilities of central and local government. The guidance in this chapter supplements the information contained in CAFS2, and the Scottish Government expects local authorities to ensure that both documents are taken into account by all relevant departments.

Road transport is a major source of local air pollution, particularly in our towns and cities. In urban areas, road traffic accounts for a major part of the total emissions of nitrogen dioxide and particles – the objectives of most concern for human health. Transport generates just over one-sixth of Scotland’s total particulate matter (PM10) and over one-third of total nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions[14]

Cutting road transport emissions is therefore a key part of LAQM. Local authority officers dealing with air quality duties should liaise regularly with transport and planning colleagues, and with Transport Scotland where the pollution arises from trunk roads and motorways.

10.2 The Transport (Scotland) Act 2019

The Transport (Scotland) Act 2019[15]:

  • Sets out the powers to make provision for Low Emission Zones.
  • Makes provision for and in connection with the powers of local transport authorities in connection with the operation of local bus services in their areas.
  • Makes provision about arrangements under which persons may be entitled to travel on local bus and other transport services.
  • Prohibits the parking of vehicles on pavements, double parking and parking adjacent to dropped footways.
  • Enables local authorities to make schemes under which a charge may be levied for providing workplace parking places.
  • Makes provision in connection with regional Transport Partnerships.

10.3 Low Emission Zones (LEZs)

Low Emission Zones[16] (LEZs) are a moving traffic contravention working to prevent the most polluting vehicles driving within an area. LEZs have two mandatory objectives:

  • To contribute towards meeting the air quality objectives
  • To contribute towards meeting the emissions reduction targets set out in Part I of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2019.

There are two sets of national regulations for LEZs:

  • The Low Emission Zones (Emission Standards, Exemptions and Enforcement) (Scotland) Regulations 2021[17] covering emission standards, exemptions, penalty charge rates, and enforcement.
  • The Low Emission Zones (Scotland) Regulations 2021[18] covering consultation, publication and representations, examinations, approved devices, and accounts.

LEZ guidance to local authorities was published on 25 October 2021 following Ministerial approval and can be accessed here: Low Emission Zone Guidance

10.4 Low Emission Zone Support Fund

The LEZ Support Fund provides funding for lower-income households and smaller business to prepare for the implementation of LEZs. Funds allow for the disposal or retrofit of non-LEZ compliant vehicles belonging to residents within 20km of a LEZ.

10.5 Air quality action planning and transport measures

Traffic management and other local transport schemes are likely to be key elements in any air quality action plan or local air quality strategy. This section summarises some of the measures available to local authorities.

10.6 Local roads

Local authorities, in their role as highways authorities, have a range of powers, including compulsory purchase of land for road building and restrictions on and the stopping up of roads.

10.7 Local Transport Strategies

Local Transport Strategies are significant for LAQM as they set out local authorities' plans and priorities for the development of an integrated transport policy within their area of responsibility. They cover all forms of local authority provided transport and set out how authorities plan to tackle the associated problems, including those related to poor air quality. Among other things, Strategies may contain any proposals to utilise the road user charging powers, promote green transport plans, and provide the context for walking and cycling strategies. The Scottish Government considers it important that air quality action plans and local air quality strategies are consistent with, and where appropriate linked to, Local Transport Strategies.

10.8 Workplace parking levy

The Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 provides local authorities with a discretionary power to set up workplace parking levy (WPL) schemes. Guidance for local authorities on implementing a WPL scheme was published in 2022 and can be assessed here: Workplace Parking Licensing Guidance

10.9 Parking controls

A big influence on whether people drive is parking cost and availability. The Road Traffic Regulation Act permits local authorities to determine where motorists can park and how much it will cost them. They may also restrict parking in other ways. Residents’ parking schemes, for example, can be a good way of encouraging non-residents to find other ways of travelling into town centres. Authorities can also use the planning process to regulate the amount of private non-residential parking (PNR) associated with a new development.

Transport Scotland commissioned research through ClimateXChange which aimed to gather evidence on the effectiveness of different parking management interventions in reducing car use. The report identifies five parking intervention types as having an impact on car kilometre reduction, modal split and car ownership. The report can be accessed here: Reducing car use through parking policies.

10.10 Parking prohibitions

The Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 prohibits pavement parking, double parking and parking at dropped kerbs, and gives local authorities the relevant powers to enforce these new provisions. To support these provisions, a suite of regulations is required to bring the new legislation into force.

10.11 Pedestrian/vehicle restricted areas

A local authority may wish to restrict access to a road or area to some or all vehicles at different times of the day. The Environment Act 1995 added 'improving air quality' as a reason for making TROs under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. Where there are objections to an order which would have the effect of restricting or prohibiting access outside peak hours, the local authority would first need to hold a public enquiry. The reason for restricting vehicle access may be to create a pedestrianised area. Typically, these allow vehicular access for all or some parts of the day. In any case, authorities will need to ensure that delivery and service vehicles have suitable access.

Restricting access to town centres has been shown to improve the local environment. There are plenty of examples of pedestrianisation schemes that have maintained or improved local economic activity. But this does not happen automatically - people must still be able to get to the area by other means. These could include:

  • Good public transport, perhaps with park and ride.
  • Facilities for cyclists and pedestrians.
  • Peripheral car parking and paid parking.
  • Access for people with limited mobility.
  • Access for taxis, where appropriate.

10.12 Scottish Zero Emission Bus Challenge Fund

The Scottish Zero Emission Bus Challenge Fund[19] (ScotZEB) supports the swift transition to zero emission vehicles and improves air quality while contributing to the delivery of Low Emission Zones Scottish zero emission bus challenge fund.

10.13 Active travel

At the heart of the Scottish Government’s long-term vision is the ambition that by 2030, Scotland’s communities are shaped around people and place, enabling walking and cycling to be the most popular mode of transport for short, everyday journeys. Central to the delivery of this ambition is the Walking Strategy, Active Travel Framework and Cycling Framework for Active Travel. Active travel should be a key component of local air quality management for local authorities.

10.14 Active travel strategies

Local authorities are encouraged to develop their own active travel strategies that align to the Active Travel Outcomes Framework and the corresponding 2030 Active Travel Vision[20]. Active Travel Strategy Guidance was issued in 2014 and updated in February 2023 to support local authorities prepare an active travel strategy for their area[21]. From an air quality perspective, active travel strategies and air quality action plans should be closely aligned.


Email: andrew.taylor2@gov.scot

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