Environmental Audit Committee report - Action on air quality

The Environmental Audit Committee's third report on air pollution in five years recommends changes to planning rules to protect air quality in local planning and development.

The predecessor to this report was published in 2010 and a follow-up report was published in 2011. The report states that the main recommendations contained in the 2010 and 2011 reports have not been implemented, while air pollution continues to cost the lives of 29,000 people per year. Further, it states that the UK Government has failed to meet EU air quality targets in cities, some of which will not meet the required limits until 2030, adding that meeting EU standards should be the minimum requirement.

A recommendation addressing local authorities is that the Government should issue new planning guidance to ensure local authorities prioritise air quality in planning decisions. The Committee is calling on Local Authorities to use the existing air quality provision in the National Planning Policy Framework to ensure that new schools and workplaces have adequate public transport links and be easily reached by bicycle or foot from the surrounding community to reduce the need for car journeys. The Government should help by launching a national public awareness campaign to raise public understanding of the air quality and provide guidance to improving it.

Other recommendations for which the report calls on the Government to take urgent action include:

• Update the 2007 Air Quality Strategy, adopting a cross-Government approach with clear demarcation of responsibilities between departments and between central and local government;

• Meet EU nitrogen dioxide targets as soon as possible;

• Engage with local authorities to establish best practice in tackling air pollution across the UK;

• Introduce a national framework for low emission zones to help local authorities reduce air pollution;

• Build in air quality obligations to transport infrastructure;

• Examine fiscal and other measures to gradually encourage a move away from diesel vehicles towards low emission options;

• Close legal loopholes to end the practice of removing filter systems from existing vehicles;

• Apply pressure at European level to ensure effective EU legislation and emission standards backed up by a robust testing regime; and

• Institute a national public awareness campaign to increase understanding, publicising the UK-AIR forecast website and encourage measures to reduce air pollution.

Date: 08/12/2014 Date of publication

Author: Environmental Audit Committee

DCP link: This item updates DCP section 4.151 and 4.16


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