Policy Summary: Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs' Clean Air Strategy 2019

POLICY: Clean Air Strategy 2019.

Vehicle pollution: strategy offers curbs
Vehicle pollution: strategy offers curbs

ISSUED BY: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

ISSUE DATE: 14 January 2019

Background: In May last year, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) published its draft Clean Air Strategy for consultation. Over the course of three months, the department received responses from 393 organisations, 207 individuals and 111 campaign groups. The final Clean Air Strategy, informed by those responses, has now been published. It is intended to sit alongside three other government strategies: the Industrial Strategy, the Clean Growth Strategy and the 25-year environment plan.

Key points: Defra has outlined proposals to use the planning system to tackle the cumulative impact of nitrogen deposits on natural habitats. Guidance will be issued to local authorities explaining how these cumulative impacts should be assessed and mitigated, it says. The strategy states: "Consistent application of this guidance will improve protection of important natural habitats while providing greater certainty for applicants to planning and permitting processes."

Local authorities will be expected to play a greater role in preventing air pollution. As well as the measures on nitrogen, Defra said it also intends to work with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to "strengthen planning practice guidance on air quality to ensure planning decisions help to drive improvements in air quality". The strategy refers to another clean air document, the Clean Air Zone Framework, published by Defra and the Department for Transport in May 2017. It sets out how local authorities should create clean air zones in their area. The strategy describes the framework as a "creative, total emissions tool for local authorities to clean up local air", but "awareness of its potential is low". Local authorities that have made good progress in reducing roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations will be asked to help others learn from their experience.

Guidance will be developed, the strategy adds, to inform local authorities how air quality management areas, smoke control areas and clean air zones (CAZs) interrelate and should be used to tackle air pollution. CAZs may or may not involve charging drivers of certain vehicles. The government states that, if a local authority can identify non-charging measures "that are at least as effective at reducing NO2, those measures should be preferred".

The strategy goes on to say that the government is committed to promoting the use of low-emission forms of transport. Examples include utilising the rail network to move freight rather than roads or encouraging the use of walking, cycling and public transport instead of cars.

The government intends to follow up on its recent consultation on the future of the UK aviation sector with a draft strategy for the future of the UK maritime sector, the document adds. Ports will be expected to publish air quality strategies by the end of 2019.

The document can be found here. 

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