A form of assessment required by the local authorities to dictate the outcome of planning applications, an air quality assessment specifically focuses on the potential impacts of a planning project in relation to the atmosphere. More specifically, depending on the nature of the required air quality assessment services, the aim will be to guarantee that the proposed development will not produce air pollutants to harm local air quality or suffer from air pollution exposure due to poor air quality in the surrounding area.
Linked to monitoring and testing, the data retrieved from air quality assessments will reveal key pieces of information about the proposed location, such as ventilation, humidity, contaminants and temperature control. Alongside building an understanding of the local air quality, an air quality survey will also create a list of point sources from the many ways that both existing and new exposure to pollutants may be occurring, the severity of air pollution, and all receptors likely to experience exposure to it.
When is an Air Quality Assessment Required?
As well as any instances where a development holds a high probability of causing air quality issues or where air pollution could harm a development, air quality assessments may be needed in a selection of specific circumstances. Broad conditions include all major developments and planning projects that involve substantial earthworks or any level of demolition works.
Other factors that would lead to the need for air quality assessments include developments situated near to local roads and in sensitive areas such as a listed air quality management area (AQMA). An air quality assessment would also be needed for developments that will heighten traffic volumes and cause traffic congestion, developments that will alter the long-term traffic composition and traffic flows in the area (e.g. the creation of a bus station, car park etc), and developments on sites with biomass boilers and combined heat and power (CHP) plant boilers present.
Air Quality Assessment for Planning
It is common for a new development to be subjected to any number of surveys and assessments for planning applications. The planning department within a local authority simply will not consider granting applications for planning conditions without demonstration of acknowledgement, correct inspection and appropriate mitigation measures for the issues in question in the shape of a formalised assessment such as an ecological survey or a tree survey.
Whether as the result of a request from the local planning authority or due to the need for further information based on a prior assessment, air quality assessments could be an important consideration in your pursuit of planning permission. Developers should therefore reach out to an air quality team early into the planning process, allowing for precautionary action at the construction phase that will prevent issues with receiving a successful planning application.
Why is Air Quality Important?
Although easy to disregard, air quality impacts a multitude of factors. Most importantly, as we breathe the air into our lungs, leading it to move through our bloodstream and internal organs, the presence of air quality can be detrimental to our health, particularly if it carries harmful air pollutants. Considering the estimated 15,000 litres of air breathed in by adults every day, the damage from poor air quality could be significant.
While air quality can pose a hazard to a perfectly healthy adult, the dangers are much more troubling for individuals that are regarded as sensitive receptors, such as the elderly, children and members of society with chronic illnesses. The standard of air quality can also affect the environment by contributing negatively to climate change, infringing on the ozone layer, and producing toxic living environments for wildlife. In addition, even the economy suffers harm from poor air quality, as it can minimise crop yields, wear down labour productivity, and expand health expenditure.
Air Quality Legislation
After the UK departed the EU following the completion of Brexit, it was possible to remain covered by protections over air quality impact through the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018. Multiple elements brought in by the EU aim to avoid and reduce air pollution, including the Gothenburg Protocol and the Directive 2008/50/EC (the Air Quality Directive), along with the Global Air Quality Guidelines from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
In terms of efforts to safeguard at a national level, protections include the Clean Air Strategy 2019, the Air Quality Standards Regulations 2010 (Air Quality Directive), and the National Emission Ceilings Directive 2001, 2016 and 2018. The local councils for various locations across the UK also release regular local plans for planning in the chosen area, and within it are references to air quality, climate change, green infrastructure and renewable energy.
Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs)
Applying to the entirety of the UK, national air quality objectives work to prevent any area from exceeding certain limits. The air quality within all areas is periodically reviewed and assessed under Part IV of the Environment Act 1995 as part of the National Air Quality Strategy.
Any area that has been judged to exceed the national air quality objectives will be classed as an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA). Specific pollutant emissions that need to stay under the limit include benzene, butadiene, carbon dioxide, lead and sulphur dioxide.
Air Quality Surveys
A proposed development can feature an array of potential issues, and as such, air quality assessments appear in a wide range of forms to suit a variety of purposes.
For instance, an air quality screening assessment, air quality statement, detailed air quality assessment and detailed site suitability assessment utilise air dispersion modelling software to examine air pollution exposure, air quality monitoring, indoor air quality monitoring and air quality neutral assessments ensure adherence to the framework of the government and corresponding regulators, and odour assessments and dust risk assessments focus on controlling dust and smell in the atmosphere.
Each type of air quality assessment that applies to development includes:
- Air Quality Environmental Statement Chapters / Air Quality Statement
- Air Quality Monitoring
- Detailed Air Quality Assessment / Air Quality Screening Assessment
- Detailed Site Suitability Assessment
- Dust Risk Assessment / Dust Management Plan
- Indoor Air Quality Assessment / Indoor Air Quality Monitoring
- Odour Assessment
- Preliminary Air Quality Constraints Assessment
Air Quality Assessment Report
At the point of completion following any air quality assessment, a report will be assembled by the air quality consultants in charge of the survey process. The air quality assessment report will reference the observations from the survey, mitigation measures that will work to avoid, eliminate and reduce air pollution, and an overview of why the mitigation measures were chosen and how they will be initiated.
Reports from assessments for planning applications are recognised by local authorities as reliable and trusted evidence, meaning that a comprehensive report will contain everything the planning officer needs to see in order to make planning decisions, and providing every box is ticked, it should give them everything they need to approve planning consent.
Book in an Air Quality Assessment
Developers may identify a likely need for air quality assessments based on the nature of their proposed development and the potential air quality impacts, or the local planning authority may insist on air quality assessments due to poor air quality in the area or the new development likely to cause pollutant emissions from outlined point sources. Either way, 24Housing has you covered through our links to knowledgeable and experienced air quality consultants.
All you need to do is go to our contact page, express your need for an air quality assessment, and give us as much information about your planning project as possible. We will then send across a free quote, and if you decide to move forwards with us, an air quality consultant will assist you during the construction phase, conduct the necessary air quality assessments, and create a report with all of the insight and expertise needed to prompt a successful planning application.