Revised guidance encourages councils to focus on improving air quality

Local authorities should seek opportunities to actively improve air quality through plan-making and development management decisions, according to updated Planning Practice Guidance (PPG).

Air pollution (pic: Alan Stanton, Flickr)
Air pollution (pic: Alan Stanton, Flickr)

Revised planning guidance on air quality, published yesterday, advises authorities that consideration of air quality during plan-making can "help secure net improvements in overall air quality where possible".

Authorities are newly advised they should take account of "trends" in air quality and to identify opportunities to "improve air quality or mitigate impacts" using measures such as "travel management and green infrastructure provision".

In development management, the guidance says authorities should consider "what would happen to air quality in the absence of the development".

The revised PPG includes several new references to public health and biodiversity and states that these issues should also be considered in plan-making and planning decisions.

Plan-makers should take account of "Clean Air Zones and other areas including sensitive habitats or designated sites of importance for biodiversity", it says.

Assessments of changes in air quality during the construction and operational phases of proposed development should include "the consequences of this for public health and biodiversity", the new guidance states.

Other key additions to the guidance include advice stating that air quality assessments supporting planning applications need not duplicate aspects of assessments conducted under non-planning regimes such as the Environmental Permitting Regulations.

The provision of electric vehicle charging infrastructure has been added to the list of specific issues that authorities may consider when assessing air quality impacts.

Authorities are also newly advised that any air quality mitigation measures must be location-specific.

The government yesterday also issued updated planning guidance on light pollution.

Last month, the High Court rejected a developer’s appeal over two proposed schemes in Kent that had been rejected due to concerns over air quality.

Earlier this year, campaign group ClientEarth wrote to more than 100 councils asking them to explain how their plan-making efforts met legal requirements to tackle climate change.

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