Air Quality Management Area (AQMA)

The UK National Air Quality Strategy (NAQS) sets standards and objectives for various airborne pollutants. Under the Air Quality (England) Regulations 2000, enacted by the Environment Act 1995, local authorities must review and assess air quality in their area for seven specific pollutants taking into account these standards and objectives.

The specific pollutants are carbon monoxide, benzene, 1,3-butadiene, nitrogen dioxide, lead, sulphur dioxide, and PM10 (particles of 10&#956m diameter or less).

Air quality objectives are health-based, and therefore the focus for air quality assessment is on public exposure. Relevant locations are considered for each pollutant and individual objective in turn. Any part of the local authority’s area in which the standards and objectives are not being met, or are unlikely to be met within the relevant specified period, must be designated as an “air quality management area” (AQMA). Following the designation of an AQMA, the local authority must draw up an action plan setting out the measures, and target dates by which it aims to meet the air quality standards.

Development has the potential to significantly affect local air quality. The impact on air quality is likely to be particularly important where a development is proposed inside, or adjacent to, an AQMA, or where the development itself could result in the designation of an AQMA. Equally, local air quality management has the potential to affect the location and design of development in order to minimise environmental impact and public exposure. Therefore, consideration of air quality issues is a key aspect of the local development control process.

The designation of an AQMA is not intended to cause refusal of development in that area. However, where a development may have a significant effect on air quality or where the air quality will have an effect on the future occupants of the development, the local authority usually requires the applicant to provide an assessment of the likely impacts.

If the impacts are assessed to be harmful or likely to affect local air quality management objectives or local air quality is shown to be a potential hazard to future occupants, then developers are expected to incorporate mitigation measures into the development, and demonstrate that the proposed measures will reduce the impacts to an acceptable level.