8: Local and regional air quality strategies
8.1 Local authorities do not 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 not had to designate AQMAs but have areas close to the exceedence levels, should consider drawing up such a strategy. The 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.
Why adopt a local air quality strategy?
8.2 A local air quality strategy 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, energy efficiency, waste management, economic development, and regeneration;
- raise the profile of air quality in the local community;
- help to encourage co-ordination between air quality and climate change policies;
- be linked to other local initiatives such as community plans;
- help authorities build up partnerships with local businesses, industry and the community;
- encourage people to do their bit to improve local air quality;
- lead to greater co-operation with neighbouring authorities and strengthen the role of regional groupings; and
- support and feed into any action plans that might be needed in future.
How to develop a local air quality strategy
8.3 In developing a local air quality strategy, local authorities will wish to follow the same principles for developing an air quality action plan. Local authorities should therefore read this chapter in conjunction with chapter 6 on action plans.
Setting up a steering group
8.4 As with developing an action plan, the Scottish Government recommends that local authorities should set up a steering group to take forward the process of drawing up a local air quality strategy. This group should consist of officers from relevant council departments and may include officers from other local authorities (where a regional air quality strategy is being drawn up).
Co-operation and liaison within an authority
8.5 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, in particular those covering:
- Environmental health;
- Land use planning;
- Transport planning;
- Waste management;
- Economic development;
- Regeneration; and
- Town centre management.
8.6 The environmental health department should co-ordinate liaison with other relevant departments and set up meetings to discuss how air quality considerations can be taken into account in other policy areas, including development plans, local transport plans, economic development plans and strategies, and sustainable development strategies.
Local authority's own contributions to improving air quality
8.7 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.
8.8 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 and set environmental conditions in their service contracts with outside contractors.
8.9 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 in their 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.
Co-operation between local authorities
8.10 Even where the effects of air pollution are localised, the solution may need to 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.
8.11 It is therefore important when developing a local air quality strategy to discuss it with neighbouring authorities or those within any regional grouping. 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.
Co-operation with outside bodies
8.12 Local air quality problems cannot be solved by local authority action alone. The success of a local 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;
- Scottish Natural Heritage;
- Transport Scotland;
- Regional transport partnerships;
- Health boards and NHS bodies;
- businesses and other interested parties; and
- community representatives.
Format of a local air quality strategy
8.13 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 exceedences are forecast. Local authorities could include other pollutants such as ozone or look to tackle pollutants prominent in their area, such as emissions from particular industrial 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.
8.14 The air quality strategy should start by setting out the problems associated with air pollution and its impact on human health, ecosystems, vegetation and buildings 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.
8.15 The local authority should set out its intentions 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 if possible include any timescales. 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 boilers.
8.16 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 plan and, where the authority has declared an AQMA, the strategy could feed into the air quality action plan. Authorities should also indicate within the strategy what co-operation they need or have secured from other sources, such as neighbouring authorities and outside organisations - SEPA, local businesses and community groups.