Blog   |   Dec 19th, 2017 Proper Planning for Tougher Air Quality Enforcement in the UK

Trc Tougher Air Quality Enforcement Uk

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:

  • Involve outside experts as soon as possible – ideally prior to site acquisition – so they can review design proposals and identify potential air quality issues and broader environmental constraints in order to manage and mitigate them as the project proceeds.
  • Engage early with local planning authorities to minimise the risk of surprises when the planning application is submitted. TRC has long experience with this type of engagement and can guide you through the process.
  • Ensure that the planning submission meets the expectations of the regulators. This doesn’t mean over-specifying the air quality assessment, but making sure that the relevant risks are clearly understood and will be controlled as part of the development process.

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Blog Author

Sherif Hassan

Sherif Hassan

Sherif is an environmental scientist who has more than 15 years of industrial, academic and consultancy experience in environmental management and assessment with particular expertise in air quality management. Prior to joining TRC, Sherif worked at international engineering consultancies where he led numerous air quality assessments for different development proposals, including residential, commercial, mixed-use, roads, rail and industrial in the UK and abroad. Sherif currently leads the Air Quality discipline for TRC in the UK.