Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


  Dear Chief Environmental Health Officer


  Part IV of the Environment Act 1995 requires every local authority periodically to review air quality in its area. The Air Quality Regulations 1997 prescribe air quality objectives for seven pollutants, to be achieved by 2005. Local authorities have to consider the present quality of air and the likely future quality of air, and assess whether prescribed objectives are likely to be achieved by the end of 2005.

  In December 1997 the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the Welsh Office and the Scottish Office issued guidance under section 88(2) of the Environment Act 1995 on a "Framework for Review and Assessment of Air Quality". Paragraphs 3.23 and 3.24 of the guidance explained that the Government would not be imposing a statutory deadline for completion of local authority reviews and assessments and that it would be a matter for local authorities to determine the frequency of reviews and assessments of air quality. The guidance went on to say that " . . . the Government expects local authorities to have completed their reviews and assessments of air quality within two years of Part IV of the Act coming into force" (i.e., the end of 1999).

  The Government has recently published its proposals for review of the National Air Quality Strategy (NAQS), and, in particular, its proposals for revised and additional objectives for the pollutants. During the review process, as a result of the work of the Airborne Particles Expert Group, it became apparent that the original PM10 objective[3] was unrealistic. Their work also revealed the importance of European sources and the limit to which local authority action could control levels of PM10. The Government has therefore proposed replacing the objective in regulation with the proposed EC Air Quality Daughter Directive Stage 1 limit values.[4]

  Following consultation, the Government may conclude that the national objective for PM10 should be replaced in regulation by the EC Stage 1 limit values. Such a change would clearly have significant implications for the scale of work local authorities undertake on the review and assessment of PM10 and the conclusions they reach. In addition, the likelihood that an air quality management area would have to be declared for PM10 would be significantly reduced.

  The analysis presented in the Review report suggested that by 2005 with existing policies, even if atypical meteorology occurred in that year, the daily EC Stage 1 PM10 limit value should be achieved at urban background locations across most of the UK, with the exception of central London. There are also likely to be exceedences of the limit value at busy roadsides in some large urban areas and in the vicinity of some industrial plant.

  Quite clearly local authorities will wish to take account of this. For as long as the situation with regard to particles is unresolved, it would be sensible if local authorities were to shift the focus of their review and assessment of PM10. Local authorities in areas which are at risk of exceeding the daily EC Stage 1 limit value are advised to carry on with their review and assessment of PM10. Local authorities not at risk of exceeding the EC Stage 1 limit value might consider delaying further their review and assessment of PM10 by not going beyond the first stage review, until the Government has completed its consultation on the revised PM10 objective and has announced its decision.

  To help local authorities, and without prejudice to the outcome of the consultation process, the Department is developing technical material which may assist them in deciding how best they might undertake work in this field. This technical material will also include a discussion of the implication of the use of different types of PM10 monitoring systems. I aim to send this technical material on PM10 to you in April this year.

  The same difficulties do not arise for other pollutants and local authorities should continue to press ahead with the review and assessment of the other six pollutants for which there are prescribed objectives (carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, benzene, 1, 3-butadiene, lead, and sulphur dioxide).

Brian Hackland

Air and Environmental Quality Division

Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

12 March 1999

3   50 ug/m3 as a 24 hour running mean, to be achieved with no more than four exceedences by the end of 2005 (as measured by a TEOM or equivalent). Back

4   50 ug/m3 as a daily mean, to be achieved by 1.1.2005 with no more than 35 exceedences and an annual average of 40 ug/m3 (as measured by European gravimetric transfer reference sampler or equivalent, roughly 7 to 20 exceedences using the TEOM or equivalent method). Back

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