Environmental management body calls for government to prioritise health risks when reforming air quality legislation
The protection of human health must be the primary objective of the government’s Local Air Quality Management (LAQM) laws, an environmental management body has warned.
In its response to government public consultation on the legislation, the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) also said the Highways Agency must be made responsible for controlling vehicle emissions, which it asserts contribute to the death of thousands of people every year.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) six week public consultation, focusing on the ‘shortcomings’ of the LAQM legislation, was launched on July 1 and concerns regulations under the Environment Act 1995 (see airqualitynews story).
Options considered by Defra for improving LAQM were summarised as:
• Business As Usual with limited changes
• Concentration on Action Planning and focused reporting
• Alignment with EU requirements to meet air quality limit values
• Separate local air quality management duties do not exist
Of the four options on LAQM put to participants, CIWEM said it supports a modified option two that would focus on improving air quality where people are exposed, reduce reporting requirements, and provide a simplified annual report for each locality.
When asked if there were any options the participant felt would have an adverse effect on air quality, CIWEM cited the alignment with EU requirements and non-separate LAQM duties. It argued action planning relied on “strong individuals in key positionsâ€? with local knowledge, while significant differences between the EU Limit Values and the National Air Quality Objectives would hinder local authorities.
The organisation also believes local successes in air quality management would be bolstered if the Highways Agency, which controls the UK’s busiest roads, took on more obligations to maintain air quality standards along its network.
CIWEM policy officer, Laura Grant, argued strong national support is needed to achieve the LAQM aims.
She said: “Local authorities should be provided with high quality evidence that includes the costs and benefits of air quality improvement measures. This, coupled with improved public awareness measures, such as signage of air quality management areas, can be used to foster acceptance of the measures required to control them, such as reduced car use.â€?
She added: “Until the Highways Agency shows leadership, it is unlikely that local authorities, who have much less resource and expertise available, will prioritise air quality.â€?