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.

7. Local and regional air quality strategies

Local authorities do not currently have a statutory obligation to prepare or adopt a local air quality strategy. The Scottish Government, however, recommends that all authorities, particularly those that have previously designated (now-revoked) AQMAs or who have not had to designate AQMAs but have areas close to the exceedence levels, or recognised air quality issues, should consider developing such a strategy. The Scottish Government considers it important that all authorities commit themselves to ensuring that air pollution remains below objective levels. Even local authorities with very good air quality may wish to develop local air quality strategies in order to maintain these standards and which may also help contribute to other requirements the authority is required to meet.

7.1 Why adopt a local air quality strategy?

There are many benefits of developing a local air quality strategy, in particular they can:

  • Emphasise the local authority’s role in delivering cleaner air and, by setting an example, can encourage others to take action.
  • Raise the profile of air quality within a local authority, thus keeping key issues high on the agenda of elected members.
  • Help authorities handle air quality in a corporate and multi-disciplinary way – allowing authorities to take air quality considerations properly into account in all their wider policy areas, such as land-use planning, transport planning, sustainability and energy efficiency, waste management, economic development, and regeneration.
  • Raise the profile of air quality in the local community and encourage public engagement and behaviour change.
  • Help to encourage co-ordination between air quality, noise and climate change policies.
  • Be linked to other local initiatives such as community plans.
  • Help authorities build up partnerships with local businesses, industry and communities.
  • Encourage people to contribute to improvements in local air quality.
  • Lead to greater co-operation with neighbouring authorities and strengthen the role of regional groupings.
  • Support and feed into any action plans that might be needed in future.

An air quality strategy also has an important role to play where a previously declared AQMA has been revoked. The air quality strategy can continue the work of the action plan, ensuring suitable measures remain in place, and are developed in the future, to maintain emissions reduction across the authority area and compliance with the air quality objectives.

7.2 How to develop a local air quality strategy

In developing a local air quality strategy, local authorities will wish to follow the same broad principles for developing an air quality action plan. Local authorities should therefore read this chapter in conjunction with section 6 on action plans.

7.3 Setting up a steering group

As with developing an action plan, the Scottish Government recommends that local authorities set up a steering group to take forward the process of developing a local air quality strategy. This group should consist of officers from relevant departments within the local authority and may include officers from other neighbouring authorities (where a regional air quality strategy is being considered). An air quality strategy steering group should operate on the same broad principles as an action plan steering group, but due to the strategic nature should consider a wider breadth of interests, membership and involvement across the local authority and partner organisations.

7.4 Co-operation and liaison within an authority

The Scottish Government recommends that local authorities should take a multidisciplinary approach to LAQM. There should be effective links between all the relevant local authority departments. The local authority environmental health department should ideally lead and co-ordinate liaison and discussions with other relevant departments and set up meetings to discuss how air quality considerations can be taken into account in other policy areas relevant to the authority, including development plans, local transport plans, economic development plans and strategies, and climate change/sustainable development strategies.

7.5 A local authority’s own contributions to improving air quality

The Scottish Government is keen that local authorities should continue to act as a catalyst in this way and to communicate their commitment to delivering cleaner air from their operations in the local air quality strategy. This will be the basis for encouraging other organisations and businesses in the area to develop their own strategies to bring about improvements in air quality.

Many local authorities already run at least some of their vehicles, or those of their contractors, on alternative fuels and can use vehicle purchase or hire agreements to specify emissions standards. Authorities can also lead the way in developing travel plans for their staff by encouraging them to use public transport, where possible, instead of travelling to work by car.

Local authorities can use green purchasing policies to specify the use of locally sourced products, thereby reducing transport requirements. They can also increase their energy efficiency by reducing emissions from large boiler plants in their buildings, increasing building estate efficiency and set environmental conditions in their service contracts with outside contractors.

7.6 Co-operation between local authorities

Even where the effects of air pollution are localised, the solution may need to be developed, implemented and operate at a larger scale and therefore involve more than one local authority. Where strategic planning or traffic management is the answer to an air quality problem, different departments of local authorities will need to co-operate. There will also be cases where the activities of one local authority (for example, in traffic management or land-use planning) may have air quality implications not just for neighbouring authorities but also for others situated further away.

It is therefore important when developing a local air quality strategy to discuss it with neighbouring authorities or those within any regional groupings. Other authorities in the region may have already drawn up an air quality strategy and it can be useful to share experience. This level of co-operation can help strengthen links between authorities in regional groupings. The Scottish Government recommends that local authorities should look to support from neighbouring authorities in drawing up their local air quality strategies and should consider developing joint air quality strategies, where appropriate.

7.7 Co-operation with outside bodies

Many local air quality problems cannot be solved by local authority action alone. The success of a local air quality strategy depends upon co-operation with other sectors. Local authorities may wish to include in their strategies a framework for co-operation with:

  • The Scottish Government.
  • SEPA.
  • NatureScot.
  • Transport Scotland.
  • Regional Transport Partnerships (RTPs).
  • Public Health Scotland (PHS), health boards and NHS bodies.
  • Businesses and other parties with commercial interests.
  • Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and charities.
  • Community groups and representatives.

The type of co-operation and organisations engaged with will depend on local circumstances and it will be up to the local authority to determine the breadth and levels of co-operation required for any particular air quality strategy.

7.8 Format of a local air quality strategy

The format of a local air quality strategy is entirely up to the local authority. Air quality strategies can address a range of pollutants and not just those where exceedances are forecast. Local authorities could include other pollutants such as ground-level ozone or look to tackle specific pollutants prominent in their area, such as emissions from particular industrial, transport or domestic sources. Authorities could also consider taking a broader issues-based approach rather than focusing on individual pollutants incorporating the principles of wider environmental sustainability and achieving net-zero.

The air quality strategy should start by setting out the problems associated with air pollution and its impact on human health, ecosystems and the environment, vegetation and buildings/infrastructure, etc., in order to focus people’s minds on what the risks are and why action needs to be taken. It might also be useful to explain what work the authority has been doing as part of its air quality review and assessment, and where applicable action planning, processes.

The local authority should set out its intentions for air quality in the strategy or what action needs to be taken to reduce levels of air pollution, such as increased use of public transport, implementation of information campaigns to bring about changes in behaviour, etc. It might also be useful to explain how the actions will be carried out and any timescales for implementation and measures of success. It is important to explain what actions the local authority is already undertaking itself, such as using alternatively fuelled vehicles in its own fleet or reducing emissions from its own energy generation. Previous APRs and actions plans will be useful sources of information to help inform this part of the strategy.

The strategy should show how local authorities will take air quality into account in wider policy areas, for example land-use planning and traffic management. It should also be linked to other plans, such as the regional and local transport strategy, development plans and, where the authority has declared an AQMA(s), the strategy could feed into the air quality action plan(s). Authorities should also indicate within the strategy what co-operation they need or have secured from other sources, such as neighbouring authorities and outside bodies such SEPA, local businesses and community groups.

7.9 Consultation on air quality strategies

There is no statutory requirement for local authorities to consult on air quality strategies. However, it is recommended that the same broad principles for consultation on air quality action plans (Section 9) are undertaken to provide inclusivity with relevant parties for development and implementation of the strategy. Air quality strategies should be uploaded to the LAQM portal.


Email: andrew.taylor2@gov.scot

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