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.

2. Local Air Quality Management

Part IV of the Environment Act 1995 requires the UK Government and the devolved administrations to publish an Air Quality Strategy and establishes the system of LAQM.

2.1 Air quality objectives

The air quality objectives set out in the Air Quality (Scotland) Regulations 2000 (as subsequently amended by the Air Quality (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2002 and the Air Quality (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2016) provide the statutory basis for the air quality objectives under LAQM in Scotland. The regulations also prescribe the dates for meeting air quality objectives. The objectives are set out in Table 2.1.

Section 82 of the 1995 Act provides that local authorities shall review and assess air quality in their areas against these objectives. Local authorities have to consider the current and likely future air quality in their areas and assess whether the objectives are likely to be achieved by the due dates. Local authorities should continue to work towards meeting the air quality objectives beyond the deadlines set out in the regulations. For example it is expected that an objective which was due to be met by 2005 should also be met in every subsequent year.

Table 2.1 – Air quality objectives prescribed in regulations for LAQM purposes in Scotland
Pollutant Air Quality Objective Date to be achieved by
Concentration1 Measured as
Benzene 16.25 microgrammes/m3 3.25 microgrammes /m3 running annual mean running annual mean 31.12.2003 31.12.2010
1,3 Butadiene 2.25 microgrammes /m3 running annual mean 31.12.2003
Carbon monoxide 10.0 mg/m3 running 8-hour mean 31.12.2003
Lead 0.5 microgrammes /m3 0.25 microgrammes /m3 annual mean annual mean 31.12.2004 31.12.2008
Nitrogen dioxide2 200 microgrammes /m3 not to be exceeded more than 18 times a year 40 microgrammes /m3 1 hour mean annual mean 31.12.2005 31.12.2005
Particulate matter (PM10) 50 microgrammes /m3 not to be exceeded more than 35 times a year 40 microgrammes /m3 50 microgrammes /m3 not be exceeded more than 7 times a year 18 microgrammes /m3 24 hour mean annual mean 24 hour mean annual mean 31.12.2004 31.12.2004 31.12.2010 31.12.2010
Particulate matter (PM2.5) 10 microgrammes /m3 annual mean 31.12.2020
Sulphur dioxide 350 microgrammes /m3 not to be exceeded more than 24 times a year 125 microgrammes /m3 not to be exceeded more than 3 times a year 266 microgrammes /m3 not to be exceeded more than 35 times a year 1 hour mean 24 hour mean 15 minute mean 31.12.2004 31.12.2004 31.12.2005

2.2 Review and assessment reporting

Part IV of the 1995 Act requires local authorities to review the air quality for the time being, and likely future quality within the relevant period, of air within the authority’s area. Local authorities are expected to produce an Annual Progress Report (APR) detailing their review and assessment work in the previous calendar year. A template has been developed which provides guidance on how to conduct, complete and submit the APR and this is available on the LAQM Portal[7].

Given that LAQM has now been in place for over 20 years, the assumption is that most hotspots will have been identified. However, it is recognised that new issues will from time-to-time arise that require more detailed investigation. Local authorities are encouraged to incorporate such investigations into their routine review and assessment work, action planning and APR as far as possible. If a local authority feels that this is not appropriate or feasible, the option to undertake a separate more detailed investigation is available. These situations will be considered on a case-by-case basis by SEPA and the Scottish Government, in discussion with the authority concerned. A local authority should proceed to a more detailed assessment as soon as a new issue is identified and not wait until the next annual review and assessment reporting cycle.

Local authorities are expected to submit their APR to the Scottish Government and to other statutory consultees[1] by the end of June each year. All APRs, must be submitted electronically via the LAQM Portal. Local authorities must also submit their diffusion tube data via the Diffusion Tube Data Entry System (DTDES) prior to submitting their APR via the LAQM Portal. The APR will not be able to be uploaded onto the LAQM Portal until the diffusion tube NO2 monitoring data has been submitted via the DTDES. All historic LAQM reports such as APRs, AQAPs, detailed assessments, AQMA declaration, amendment, revocation orders and revocations reports must also be uploaded to the LAQM Portal. These documents must also be sent to the administrators of the Scottish Air Quality Database (SAQD) for inclusion on the LAQM section of the website.

If the Scottish Government does not accept the conclusion of a local authority’s report, then the authority will be invited to provide written comments justifying their decision within a specified deadline set out in the appraisal letter. SEPA will also provide written comments on reports once they have been submitted. Local authorities who wish to seek clarification on the findings of the appraisal process should in the first instance contact the LAQM Helpdesk for further advice. The LAQM Helpdesk can discuss the details of individual cases and provide advice on responding to any points raised in the appraisal. Details are provided in Table 2.2.

Table 2.2 - Helpdesk for Local Authorities
Helpdesk Operated by Contact Details
Review & Assessment, Action planning, LAQM Portal Bureau Veritas 0800 032 7953 LAQMHelpdesk@uk.bureauveritas.com

2.3 Late submission of reports and action plans

Although a number of local authorities submit their APR and air quality action plans in line with the specified deadlines, many fail to do so. The Scottish Government accepts that there will often be legitimate reasons for late submission. In such cases, authorities should contact the Scottish Government and SEPA (via AirQuality@sepa.org.uk) at the earliest opportunity so that a revised submission date can be agreed. Where no such contact is made (and in cases where the revised deadline is missed with no further contact or without reasonable excuse) SEPA, will follow a system of reminder and warning letters (Tables 2.3 and 2.4).

In cases where an APR appraisal results in the report being rejected, a local authority must submit a revised report (which has addressed all the points which led to initial rejection) via the LAQM portal. Where a local authority fails to resubmit the APR within agreed timescales, or where the APR has not been appropriately revised SEPA, with the support of the Scottish Government, will follow the same system of reminder and warning letters as set out for APRs and AQAPs (Tables 2.3 and 2.4)

Table 2.3 – Reminder and warning letters for Annual Progress Reports
Timescale Month* Enforcement level
Prior to report submission date May Reminder
Report two months overdue August Reminder
Report three months overdue September Warning letter
Report four months overdue October Final warning letter
Report six months overdue December Section 85 direction

* or agreed revised deadline

Table 2.4 – Reminder and warning letters for Action Quality Action Plans
Timescale Months past AQMA designation or completion date for scheduled review* Enforcement level
Prior to action plan submission date 10 months Reminder
Action plan two months overdue 14 months Reminder
Action plan three months overdue 15 months Warning letter
Action plan four months overdue 16 months Final warning letter
Action plan six months overdue 18 months Section 85 direction

* or agreed revised deadline

The Scottish Government expects that the reserve powers available to SEPA should generally be used routinely once the three enforcement levels issued to local authorities have been missed, rather than their previous use which was to approach the Scottish Ministers on a case-by-case basis.

2.4 Air quality action plans

Section 83 of the 1995 Act requires that where one or more of the air quality objectives has not been met by the required date, or is in danger of not being met, the local authority must declare an AQMA, covering the area of concern. Once the area has been designated, Section 84 requires the local authority to prepare and publish an action plan. This should be done within the shortest possible time following declaration of an AQMA and no later than 12 months post declaration. The action plan must outline how the local authority intends to tackle the issues identified and achieve compliance with the failing objectives and the timeframe in which the local authority proposes to implement the measures. Each action plan measure must have expected dates for completion and milestones towards delivery. The action plan should also include an expected revocation date for the AQMA. The procedure and timescales for producing an action plan are contained in section 6.

2.5 Role of regional groupings

Under section 56 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, two or more local authorities can act jointly to manage air quality. For example, authorities can co-operate to carry out review and assessment across their combined areas. Subsequently they can declare a single AQMA made up from neighbouring areas of each authority and prepare a joint action plan. Where joint AQMAs are designated however, it may be appropriate for each participating authority to lay its own designation order. Authorities can also choose to carry out separate reviews and assessments but declare a joint AQMA. SEPA, with the approval of the Scottish Ministers, may give directions where co-operation between local authorities is essential for the purposes of LAQM but for whatever reason cannot be achieved.

The Scottish Government also attaches great value to the local pollution control liaison groups (PCLGs). These groups play a vital role by allowing environmental health officers across authorities to work closely together, and share resources and best practice. The Scottish Pollution Control Co-ordinating Committee (SPCCC) is similarly important in acting as a national focus for the regional groupings.


Email: andrew.taylor2@gov.scot

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