Housing developers need more guidance on air pollution, urge experts

There should be a clear set of guidelines for housing developers to ensure that air quality does not suffer when building new homes.

In a paper published by the University of Surrey’s Global Centre for Clean Air Research (GCARE), experts argue that the international research community should put together a set of clear guidelines for developers and urban planners to follow when implementing green infrastructure, such as planting trees, hedges and green roofs, to maximise their benefits and to reverse the effects of air pollution.

The paper says that it will take a global community of multi-disciplined researchers to ‘get to the bottom’ of how air pollution, green infrastructure and human health are connected, as these are three areas that are typically studied in isolation.

The researchers believe that, until the evidence becomes clearer, house developers, urban planners and politicians should be given the best possible information to make sure future built communities provide the maximum environmental and health benefits to residents.

Professor Prashant Kumar, director of GCARE at the University of Surrey and the lead author of the study, said: ‘It’s thought that the UK needs to build 300,000 homes a year to keep up with demand, and this pressure for housing is the same in many places across the world.

‘It’s clear that we need to enlist housing developers and planners in the effort to reduce air pollution; for them to be effective allies, they need clear and easy to follow guidelines on what is the best way to deploy green infrastructure.

‘A simple task such as planting a hedge near a roadside is more complicated than it sounds, planners will have to make a decision on the species of the plant and its location to maximise benefits and, where possible, we need to make those decisions as easy as possible for them.

In a landmark case last month, the Court of Appeal upheld a planning permission refusal on air quality grounds for 330 homes in Kent, making it the first time a planning appeal has been refused due to concerns over air pollution and public health.