The UK planning system ensures that air emissions generated by new developments do not compromise local air quality. Developers proposing projects that would have adverse impacts on air quality should anticipate refusal on air quality grounds.
In reality, however, this has not been the case – especially where local planning authorities have specific policies enabling some land uses, such as new residential areas, in order to respond to housing shortages.
Rather than refuse a development on air quality grounds, local planning authorities often secure mitigation or offsetting measures that allow the development to progress through the use of planning obligations via a Section 106 agreement; for example, by requiring additional financial contributions to support air quality monitoring and data management.
However, a recent case bucks this trend. Earlier this year, an application was made for development of 126 dwellings plus 60 “extra care” units in Newington, Kent. The site is located between two Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) that fail to meet nitrogen dioxide (NO2) limit values.
Swale Borough Council initially refused the project, and the Planning Inspectorate backed that decision, finding that the proposal would lead to “moderate” or “substantial” adverse impacts on NO2 levels at the AQMAs. The developer lost its appeal despite its willingness to adopt several mitigation measures, such as electric vehicle charging points for each dwelling.
Is this the start of a new trend? Only time will tell. But the case highlights the need for developers to consider air quality impacts when planning projects in areas of poor air quality. Here are some steps developers can take to make sure projects aren’t derailed by air quality concerns: