Local air quality management: policy guidance

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

4: Air Quality Management Areas

4.1 Local authorities have a duty under section 83(1) of the 1995 Act to designate AQMAs where the air quality objectives are unlikely to be met by or beyond the required date. AQMAs must be designated officially by means of an order.

Setting the boundaries of AQMAs

4.2 Setting the boundary of an AQMA involves an element of judgement. Boundaries can range from isolated buildings to the entire local authority area. Some local authorities have chosen to designate several AQMAs, each covering an area of concern, whereas others have included all such areas within one overall AQMA. It is thus for local authorities to decide on the boundaries for an AQMA, taking all relevant considerations into account and consulting as appropriate.

4.3 In deciding where to draw the boundaries of an AQMA, local authorities might wish to consider some of the following points:

  • It may be administratively much simpler to designate a wider area, based on existing boundaries and natural features. This avoids the need to draw artificially precise lines on maps and also allows a more strategic approach to be taken;
  • Wherever the boundaries of the AQMA are drawn, the action plan is likely to need to cover a wider area;
  • Designating a number of smaller AQMAs, rather than one single large area, can allow an authority to demonstrate progress by removing individual areas as air quality improves there;
  • Declaring smaller AQMAs may also provide a clear focus on the hot spot locations within a local authority. This may prove particularly important for informing local authority planning processes; and
  • A more focused approach to declaring AQMAs may provide a better indication of where resources need to be allocated in terms of policy interventions.

What should an AQMA order look like?

4.4 The exact wording to be included in an order is at the discretion of the individual local authority. It is recommended that local authorities include a map showing the area to be designated and to include a description of the area. For example, a larger AQMA may be described according to its boundaries near to major roads/motorways. A smaller AQMA may need a more detailed description listing individual streets or other physical features. In some cases it may be appropriate to list the individual properties affected, but there is no legal requirement to do this.

4.5 It is also recommended that the order should include the date on which the AQMA comes into force and the objective/s for which the AQMA has been designated. Local authorities should notify the Scottish Government by submitting a copy of the order. Authorities should ensure that the information is easily accessible for members of the public and other interested parties. Some include AQMAs within local land searches. Authorities should also provide an indicative timescale for production of the action plan as part of this process.

Further assessment of air quality within an AQMA

4.6 As outlined in section 2.9, the legal requirement to undertake a further assessment has been removed. Local authorities are however still expected to collect information such as source apportionment as part of the action planning process. More detail on this is provided in chapter 5.

Amendment to and revocation of an AQMA

4.7 Local authorities are able to amend or revoke an existing AQMA order at any time as set out under section 83 (2) of the 1995 Act. Where an authority considers it necessary to do this, the Scottish Government expects the authority to consult SEPA and all the other statutory consultees, businesses, members of the public and other interested parties. All available supporting information to justify the amendment or revocation should be provided to the Scottish Government before any changes take effect. A local authority may submit this evidence at any time and does not need to wait until the next annual report.

4.8 There are no set criteria on which a revocation decision will be based, and the Scottish Government considers each request on a case by case basis. A minimum requirement however will normally be at least three consecutive years where the objectives of concern are being achieved.

4.9 Where the proposed revocation or amendment is accepted by the Scottish Government, local authorities will be expected to take the necessary action within four months following receipt of comments. Where an AQMA is revoked, the authority should consider drawing up or modifying an existing local air quality strategy for the affected area(s) to ensure air quality issues maintain a high profile locally and to respond to any public expectations. Such a strategy could incorporate measures designed to tackle climate change, or be incorporated into a local climate change strategy. It could also cover the linkages between air quality and wider environmental sustainability issues.

Notification of amendment or revocation of an AQMA

4.10 Once an amendment or revocation has taken place, the local authority should submit the order to the Scottish Government for information. Local authorities should also notify SEPA and other statutory consultees and publicise the amendment or revocation widely through local media so as to ensure that the public and local businesses are fully aware of the situation.


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