Local air quality management: policy guidance

Updated guidance for local authorities to take account of changes to industrial emissions legislation and requirements.

2: Local Air Quality Management

2.1 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.

Air quality objectives

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

2.3 Under the 1995 Act, local authorities are required to regularly 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 also have a duty to continue to work towards meeting the air quality objectives beyond the deadlines set out in the regulations. For example an objective which was due to be met by 2005 must 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
Concentration 1 Measured as
Benzene 16.25 µg/m 3 running annual mean 31.12.2003
3.25 µg/m 3 running annual mean 31.12.2010
1,3 Butadiene 2.25 µg/m 3 running annual mean 31.12.2003
Carbon monoxide 10.0 mg/m 3 running 8-hour mean 31.12.2003
Lead 0.5 µg/m 3 annual mean 31.12.2004
0.25 µg/m 3 annual mean 31.12.2008
Nitrogen dioxide 2 200 µg/m 3 not to be exceeded more than 18 times a year 1 hour mean 31.12.2005
40 µg/m 3 annual mean 31.12.2005
Particulate matter ( PM 10) 50 µg/m 3 not to be exceeded more than 35 times a year 24 hour mean 31.12.2004
40 µg/m 3 annual mean 31.12.2004
50 µg/m 3 not be exceeded more than 7 times a year 24 hour mean 31.12.2010
18 µg/m 3 annual mean 31.12.2010
Particulate matter ( PM 2.5) 10 µg/m 3 annual mean 31.12.2020
Sulphur dioxide 350 µg/m 3 not to be exceeded more than 24 times a year 1 hour mean 31.12.2004
125 µg/m 3 not to be exceeded more than 3 times a year 24 hour mean 31.12.2004
266 µg/m 3 not to be exceeded more than 35 times a year 15 minute mean 31.12.2005

Review and assessment reporting

2.4 Local authorities are required to produce an annual progress report detailing their review and assessment work in the previous calendar year. This new approach, from 2016 onwards, replaces the previous three year reporting cycle, whereby in year one, all authorities were required to undertake an Updating and Screening Assessment ( USA). Where an authority identified a risk that an air quality objective will be exceeded at a relevant location [11] the local authority was required to proceed to a Detailed Assessment ( DA). In years two and three, local authorities were required to prepare progress reports, including those authorities proceeding to a DA.

2.5 The change to a single annual progress report is intended to simplify and streamline reporting requirements. Given that LAQM has now been in place for nearly 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 and annual progress report as far as possible. If a local authority feels that this is not appropriate or feasible, the option to undertake a separate detailed investigation will still be available. The Scottish Government will consider these situations on a case by case basis, in discussion with the authority concerned. As with the previous reporting arrangements, a local authority should proceed to detailed investigation as soon as a new issue is identified and not wait until the next annual report.

2.6 Local authorities are required to submit their annual progress report to the Scottish Government and to other statutory consultees [12] by the end of June each year. This is a change from the previous deadline of end April, to allow authorities more time to gather information and ratify data. All reports, except action plans, must be submitted electronically via the Report Submission Website. [13] 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.

2.7 Local authorities who wish to seek clarification on the findings of the appraisal process should in the first instance contact the Helpdesk for further advice. The 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 - Helpdesks for Local Authorities

Helpdesk Operated by Contact Details
Review & Assessment Bureau Veritas 0800 032 7953
Report Submission Website Bureau Veritas admin.rsw@uk.bureauveritas.com

Late submission of reports

2.8 Although a number of local authorities submit their review and assessment reports 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 Government 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) from 2016 SEPA, with the support of the Scottish Government, will be introducing a new system of reminder and warning letters (Tables 2.3 and 2.4).

Table 2.3 - Reminder and warning letters for annual progress reports

Timescale Month * Enforcement level
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 plans

Timescale Month Enforcement level
Action plan two months overdue 20 months post AQMA designation Reminder
Action plan three months overdue 21 months post AQMA designation Warning letter
Action plan four months overdue 22 months post AQMA designation Final warning letter
Action plan six months overdue 24 months post AQMA designation Section 85 direction

Action plans and further assessments

2.9 Whenever one or more of the air quality objectives has not been - or in the case of the new PM 2.5 objective is unlikely to be - met by the required date, the local authority concerned must declare an AQMA, covering the area of concern. The authority must then prepare and implement an action plan outlining how it intends to tackle the issues identified. The plan should also include timescales to indicate by when the measures will be implemented. Local authorities are not legally obliged to meet the objectives but they must demonstrate that they are taking all reasonable steps in working towards them. The 1995 Act does not prescribe any timescale for preparing an action plan but the Scottish Government expects them to be completed within 12 months following the designation of any AQMAs.

2.10 Section 84(1) of the 1995 Act previously required local authorities to carry out a further assessment of existing and likely future air quality in an AQMA. This provision has now been revoked by section 49 of the Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Act 2014. Under section 84(2) (a) of the 1995 Act local authorities were required to report on the further assessment within 12 months of designating the AQMA. Further assessments played an important role in confirming that the initial decision to declare an AQMA was still valid and to obtain more detailed information to contribute to the action plan. This information is still required but it should now be gathered during, rather than prior to, action plan development. The intention is that this will speed up the action planning process.

Role of regional groupings

2.11 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 agreement of the Scottish Ministers, may use the reserve powers in section 85 of the 1995 Act where co-operation between local authorities is essential for the purposes of LAQM but for whatever reason cannot be achieved.

2.12 The Scottish Government also attaches great value to the local pollution liaison groups. 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.


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