Air quality legislation in the UK

Air quality has been of concern in the UK since industrialisation and subsequently their have been many Acts of Parliament to try and abate air quality issues and improve public health. The Smoke Abatement Act 1926 followed by the Clean Air Act 1956 and subsequent Acts were aimed at reducing smoke and smog incidents in the UK's major cities.

As motor vehicle numbers increased it was evident that further legislation was required to control traffic-related air pollution. The Environment Act 1995 was the first Act to give Local Authorities the statutory obligation of Local Air Quality Management outlined in Part IV of the Act.

National Air Quality Strategy

The National Air Quality Strategy (NAQS) was subsequently published in January 2000 (amended in 2003 and 2007) and sets objectives for certain key pollutants in line with the EU Air Quality Framework Directive (96/621EC) and subsequent Daughter Directives. These directives were passed into UK law as part of the Air Quality Limit Value Regulations 2003 Statutory Instrument (SI) 2003/2121.

Air Quality Management Areas

As part of the LAQM obligation Local Authorities have to undertake a periodic process of air quality Review and Assessment. If concentrations are found to exceed the NAQS objectives then a Detailed Assessment is undertaken followed by, if necessary, an Air Quality Management (AQMA) declaration.

An AQMA is a designated area in which air pollution concentrations consistently exceed the NAQS objectives. After an AQMA has been declared the Local Authority will produce an Action Plan stating how they intend to improve local air quality; actions could include anything from public awareness campaigns to the redesigning of junctions and planning restrictions.