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.

9. Consultation

9.1 Background and statutory requirements

The Environment Act 1995 provides the statutory basis for consultation and liaison in regards to LAQM. The Scottish Government expects local authorities to continue to work closely and exchange information and data with other authorities, agencies, businesses and the local community to improve air quality.

In carrying out its functions in relation to air quality reviews and assessments under section 82 of the Act, or the preparation or revision of an action plan, Schedule 11 of the 1995 Act requires local authorities to consult:

  • Scottish Ministers.
  • SEPA.
  • All neighbouring local authorities.
  • Any National Park authority within or adjacent to the local authority area.
  • Other public authorities as appropriate.
  • Bodies representing local business interests and other organisations as appropriate.

9.2 Consultation on annual progress reports

For APRs and any more detailed work, local authorities are encouraged to consult the Scottish Ministers and other statutory consultees as listed above. They will not need to consult more widely, i.e. there is no need for a full public consultation at this stage, but they should make these assessments available to the public in accessible formats.

9.3 Consultation on action plans

Local authorities must consult on their preparation of an action plan, ideally in both draft and final form. Finalisation of the plan should take account of consultees’ comments on the draft. Action plans may operate over long timescales and authorities may only be able to specify broad proposals in the first draft. It is therefore an important principle that they carry out a further consultation if the initial proposals are revised while implementing or reviewing the action plan.

Consultation on a draft action plan should include:

  • Details of which pollutants the authority will look at and an indication of where they come from.
  • The timescales for implementing and completing each proposed measure.
  • Details of other organisations or agencies whose involvement is needed to meet the plan’s objectives and what the authority is doing to get their co-operation.

Local authorities should decide the timescale for consultation. The Scottish Government recommends, however, that no consultation exercise should last for fewer than six weeks and ideally be for a period of twelve weeks.

9.4 Consultation/liaison across local authority departments

It is important that there is effective internal consultation/liaison across local authority departments. Steering groups and committee meetings should have the support of the Chief Executive. This should help to ensure that air quality is dealt with consistently across the authority.

9.5 Co-operation between authorities

Co-operation between authorities has been greatly helped by the SPCCC and local pollution control liaison groups. These groups can assist with the exchange of information and ideas in carrying out the LAQM duties.

9.6 Consultation with the public/local businesses

Local authorities should look for innovative ways of engaging with local resident/community groups and local businesses because, if people feel personally involved in air quality issues, they are more likely to be receptive to any proposed actions to improve air quality. See National Standards for Community Engagement - National Standards for Community Engagement.

It is important that local authorities provide information on local air quality in a clear and accessible way. Authorities are ideally placed to tell people about the causes and effects of air pollution. Many local authorities have experience of health education, and they should consider exploring links with health boards and NHS bodies. They should use their local contacts, e.g. social media, websites, local newspapers, radio, libraries to reach as wide an audience as possible. Some local authorities have already developed local air quality information strategies and make review and assessment reports publicly available. Ideally, each local authority should have a website page which contains all air quality information (historic and current) pertaining to their authority.

Day-to-day information on local air pollution levels and advice to the public when pollution is high can be important catalysts for changes in behaviour. The terminology used to describe levels of air pollution should be consistent to avoid confusion. The Scottish Government advises local authorities to adopt the Daily Air Quality Index (DAQI) banding system it uses, i.e. the pollution bands are described against a numerical index as follows: 1-3 (low), 4-6 (moderate), 7-9 (high) and 10 (very high). An explanation of the banding system can be found on the Air Quality in Scotland website: Daily Air Quality Index (DAQI) (scottishairquality.scot)

9.7 Public access to information

Schedule 11 of the 1995 Act also provides for public access to information about air quality. Local authorities have a duty to make available at all reasonable times for inspection by the public free of charge a copy of each of the documents below and to provide public facilities for obtaining copies of them on payment of a reasonable charge. The documents are:

  • Reports of the results of air quality reviews
  • A report of the results of any assessment which the authority made under section 82 of the 1995 Act
  • Any order made under section 83 of the 1995 Act
  • Any action plan
  • Any proposal or statement submitted by the authority pursuant to subsection (3) or (4) of section 86 of the 1995 Act
  • Any directions given to the authority under Part IV of the 1995 Act
  • Orders (and supporting information) designating, amending or revoking an AQMA.
  • Action plans and air quality strategies.

It is for individual authorities to decide on the scope of these reports and how widely to distribute them. All reports should be provided to the Air Quality in Scotland website to provide a national resource for LAQM practitioners and interested parties. They should consider the most appropriate targeting of information and how best to make it easily accessible and widely available. In any event, information which the local authority holds on air quality is subject to the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (SSI 520)[13]. These Regulations oblige local authorities and other organisations to deal with requests for environmental information.


Email: andrew.taylor2@gov.scot

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