Background and statutory requirements
7.1 The Environment Act 1995 provides the statutory basis for consultation and liaison. The Scottish Government expects local authorities to continue to work closely and exchange data with other authorities, agencies, businesses and the local community to improve air quality.
7.2 Schedule 11 of the 1995 Act requires local authorities to consult:
- Scottish Ministers;
- all neighbouring local authorities;
- any National Park authority within or adjacent to the local authority area;
- other public authorities as appropriate; and
- bodies representing local business interests and other organisations as appropriate.
7.3 For the purposes of the 1995 Act, authorities should consult on their air quality review and assessment reports, AQMA declaration proposals and preparation or revision of an action plan.
Consultation on review and assessment reports
7.4 For progress reports and any more detailed work, local authorities will need 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.
Consultation on action plans
7.5 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 the plan.
7.6 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 each proposed measure; and
- 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.
Consultation/liaison across local authority departments
7.7 It is important that there is effective 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.
Co-operation between authorities
7.8 Co-operation between authorities has been greatly helped by the local pollution liaison groups. These groups can assist with the exchange of information and ideas in carrying out the LAQM duties.
Consultation with the public/local businesses
7.9 Local authorities need to 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.
7.10 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. 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.
7.11 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 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 Scottish Air Quality website: http://www.scottishairquality.co.uk
Public access to information
7.12 The 1995 Act also provides for public access to information. As well as the reports on which they are required to consult, local authorities should make available copies of:
- orders designating an AQMA; and
- action plans.
7.13 Nothing in the 1995 Act requires a local authority to make available all the material it collected for its review and assessment of air quality. Local authorities only have to make available a summary report. It is for individual authorities to decide on the scope of these reports and how widely to distribute them. 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). These Regulations oblige local authorities to deal with requests for environmental information.