Air Pollution – Legal & Regulatory Information


car exhaust

Rottingdean High Street was declared an Air Quality Management Area in 2013. This means that air pollution exceeds UK and European maximum acceptable levels. The school campus site frontage is on the High Street. A major development involving the playing field is likely to generate construction and post construction air pollution (both traffic and site operation generated) of a level that would be costly (if at all possible) to mitigate. The following is an extract from the Local Air Quality Management Brighton & Hove, England Progress Report 2014:

“Executive Summary:
The council declared a new Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) on 30 August 2013. The new AQMA is a quarter the size of the previous one and includes all exceedance of Nitrogen Dioxide. The council is developing a renewed 2014/15 air quality action plan targeting this area. Continuous analysis of outdoor air indicates long term improvement in nitrogen dioxide outside of the AQMA. Improvements are recorded in lower density areas, outer roadside locations and suburban neighborhoods where prevailing air quality is good. In combination with source reductions in lead, benzene, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide it is likely that where many people live the air inhaled is more healthy than 10 or 20 years ago. Monitoring at city center roadside sites suggests that nitrogen dioxide concentrations have not improved since 2001/2. At a number of roadside locations concentrations are the same as those recorded ten or twelve years ago. Provisional indications suggest this remains the case during 2014. Concentrations continue to show levels above the legal limit within nine meters (30 feet) of confined roads in parts of Brighton, Portslade and Rottingdean.”

 

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A New Regulatory Perspective

Prior to a European Court of Justice ruling in November 2014, there appears to have been little emphasis on the impact of construction and post construction traffic on air quality in planning application determinations. It is now possible for legal action to be taken against a) the UK government, b) a local planning authority and/or c) a developer if it can be shown that an AQMA has been worsened or a new AQMA has to be designated because of increased air pollution.

Brighton & Hove City Council have a dedicated page discussing Air Quality and Pollution including a 2012 Detailed Assessment for Preston Road and Rottingdean.

 

 

National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) guidance- When could air quality be relevant to a planning decision?

Paragraph: 005 Reference ID: 32-005-2014306 states:

“Whether or not air quality is relevant to a planning decision will depend on the proposed development and its location. Concern could arise if the development is likely to generate air quality impact in an area where air quality is known to be poor. They could also arise where the development is likely to adversely impact upon the implementation of an air quality strategies and action plan and/ or, in particular lead to a breach of EU legislation.

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When deciding whether air quality is relevant to a planning application consideration could include whether the development would:

  1. Significantly affect traffic in the immediate vicinity of the proposed development site or further afield. This could be by generating or increasing traffic congestion, significantly changing traffic volumes, vehicle speed or both; or significantly altering the traffic composition on local roads. Other matters to consider include whether the proposal involves the development of a bus station, coach or lorry park, adds to turnover in a large car park; or results in construction sites that would generate large Heavy Goods Vehicle flows over a period of a year or more.
  2. Expose people to existing sources of air pollutants. This could be the building of new homes, work places or other developments in places with poor air quality.
  3. Give rise to potentially unacceptable impact (such as dust) during construction for nearby sensitive locations.

Any pollution increase, no matter how small, caused by a development, in an existing AQMA is contrary to the first two requirements listed above. The detail provided by the applicant accepts that there will be an increase but attempts to indicate that it would be negligible. The thresholds used for that judgement are also inappropriate and contrary to planning guidance.

The planning system should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment by preventing both new and existing development from contributing to or being put at unacceptable risk from, or being adversely affected by unacceptable levels of soil, air, water or noise pollution or land instability;

Planning policies should sustain compliance with and contribute towards EU limit values or national objectives for pollutants, taking into account the presence of Air Quality Management Areas and the cumulative impacts on air quality from individual sites in local areas. Planning decisions should ensure that any new development in Air Quality Management Areas is consistent with the local air quality action plan.”

 

 

Stopping at traffic lights is not just frustrating – it’s REALLY bad for your health

Image result for picture of uk traffic lights

The University of Surrey researchers found traffic junctions were pollution “hotspots” because cars have to brake and stop, engines idle and then when the lights change vehicles rev and accelerate away pumping out pollution.

The university’s Dr Prashant Kumar, said: “Air pollution was recently placed in the top 10 health risks faced by human beings globally, with the World Health Organization linking air pollution to seven million premature deaths every year.

“Our time spent travelling in cars has remain fairly constant during the past decade despite the efforts to reduce it and with more cars than ever joining the roads, we are being exposed to increasing levels of air pollution as we undertake our daily commutes.

It’s not always possible to change your route to avoid these intersections, but drivers should be aware of the increased risks at busy lights.

The best ways to limit your exposure is to keep vehicle windows shut, fans off and try to increase the distance between you and the car in front where possible.

Pedestrians regularly crossing such routes should consider whether there might be other paths less dependent on traffic light crossings.

Local transport agencies could also help by synchronising traffic signals to reduce waiting time and consider alternative traffic management systems such as flyovers.”

Air pollution can cause lung and heart diseases and is linked to seven million early deaths a year globally.

 

 

World Health Organisation:

One of the World Health Organisation’s Policy Considerations says:

A reduction in children’s current exposure to air pollutants, especially from motor vehicle exhausts, is recommended. A decrease in motor vehicle exhausts will substantially benefit the respiratory health of children.

For more details contained in the report please click here.

 

 

Sussex Air Quality and Registering for Alerts

baby near exhaust

If you suffer from asthma or respiratory problems you can register to receive warnings from Sussex Air Alerts when the atmospheric conditions mean that pollution is particularly high: Click here

 

Background pollution

One possible reason for our high pollution levels is that the background level of these pollutants are high because we are adjacent to one of the busiest shipping routes in the world. The European Commission have previously funded a monitoring project with our neighbours across the Channel, bordering regions which, although they are separated by the Channel, can be affected by the same cloud of pollution.

See the European Environment Agency for more details: click here

This report shows maps of air pollution areas within Europe and the UK: click here

 

Health Impacts

Our NHS is going through enormous changes. The Joint Strategic Needs Assessment for Brighton and Hove and the recent Preventing Premature Mortality Audit (see supporting document) show that we have a relatively high number of people suffering and dying from preventable causes. In particular, chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and respiratory disease are causing our residents reduced quality and length of life. click here

 

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