Government consults on Local Air Quality Management changes, which seek to ‘reduce regulatory burden’ on councils
Local air quality reporting is to be streamlined in England, with councils required only to produce one annual improvement report in future, under plans launched for consultation by Defra today (December 19).
Under the current Local Air Quality Management (LAQM) system, which was established in the Environment Act 1995, all local authorities must regularly review and assess air quality in their areas for several pollutants against national objectives.
If an objective will not be achieved by a certain date, the authority concerned must declare an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) and produce an action plant (AQAP) setting out how it intends to deal with the problem.
After declaring an AQMA, councils are required to carry out further assessments, then updating and screening assessments, as well as progress reports and detailed assessments.
However, Defra is proposing to streamline this process, rescinding some of the above reporting requirements and replacing them with a requirement for councils to prepare a single annual improvement status report – the details of which Defra said will be consulted upon after regulatory changes are competed.
According to Defra’s consultation document, these changes will “ensure reports are more outward facing and informative to members of the public and local stakeholdersâ€? as well as providing, in the long term, annual cost savings from the reduced reporting burden.
An estimated breakdown of costs included in the consultation documents suggests that proposed changes would see an overall cost saving for diffusion tube monitoring of just over £1.5 million, and a cost saving for automatic monitoring of £3.7 million from current baseline levels.
Also up for consultation as part of Defra’s changes to the LAQM system is the removal of four pollutants – 1, 3 Butadiene, benzene, carbon monoxide and lead – from reporting regulations.
There are currently no AQMAs declared for these pollutants, so Defra said removing them from the regulations should help councils to “focus their resources on reducing current air quality problemsâ€?.
And, as part of Defra’s proposed changes, the Department is also seeking to encourage councils to “have regardâ€? to particulate matter PM2.5 in the reporting system, although it will not be a regulatory requirement for councils to monitor and model the pollutant.
Policy and technical guidance more generally is also to be revised to provide “further clarity on roles and responsibilitiesâ€? on LAQM for councils.
The six week consultation has been launched today as part of Defra’s ongoing review of the legislation, which is in turn part of the Department’s ‘Red Tape Challenge’ to reduce regulatory and administrative burdens.
The consultation closes on January 30 2015 and is aimed principally at air quality practitioners in England, although Defra also wants to hear from “as wide a range of interested parties as possibleâ€?. A summary of responses will then be published online early next year.
In addition, part two of the consultation launched today will be subject to a further, more detailed consultation in late 1995, Defra said.
It follows on from a consultation held in July year by the Department (see airqualitynews.com story) on the legislation, which prompted negative responses from the likes of Environmental Protection UK and King’s College London. A further stakeholder workshop was held in September 2014.