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London Developments to be Air Quality Neutral


Draft Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) issued for consultation by the Mayor of London in July 2013 includes a section on assessing new developments for being ‘air quality neutral’ (click here for access).  This is part of the Draft SPG on Sustainable Design and Construction that is designed to explain how policies in the London Plan should be carried through to action.  Energy use and supply form important parts of the SPG, along with flood protection and a wide range of other topic areas, including air quality.

The air quality section sets out when assessments will be required and what should be assessed.  This includes the assessment of construction impacts, which has not been the norm for assessments carried out by Air Quality Consultants Ltd, except for formal Environmental Impact Assessments of larger projects.

The guidance on ‘air quality neutral’ is entirely new.   The London Plan and the Mayor’s Air Quality Strategy had already set out the principal that developments should be at least ‘air quality neutral’, but no guidance had been provided on how to demonstrate or achieve this.  Air Quality Consultants Ltd, in conjunction with Dr Claire Holman of Environ, were commissioned by the Greater London Authority to help develop a scheme for demonstrating whether a new development is ‘air quality neutral’.  The report (click here for access), provides benchmarks against which calculated emissions from buildings and transport can be compared.  Where a scheme does not meet the ‘air quality neutral’ benchmarks, after mitigation has been applied, the developer will be required to off-set the emissions off-site.  Separate benchmarks are provided for building emissions and transport emissions and they cover both nitrogen oxides (NOx) and PM10.

Where off-setting is required, this should be in the vicinity of the development.  Measures could include: green walls and screens to absorb pollutants, and retrofitting abatement on vehicles and/or flues.

The Draft SPG also proposes that gas boilers should meet an ultra-low NOx standard (<40 mgNOx/kWh) and proposes emissions standards for CHP and biomass plant.

The consultation runs until 21 October 2013.

AQC Celebrates 20 years of helping to improve Air Quality


Set up in 1993 by Professor Duncan Laxen, Air Quality Consultants Ltd is celebrating twenty years of successful trading. The company was founded on the principle of providing a high quality service to assess and manage ambient air quality.

Now, twenty years on, and with almost 2,000 projects under its belt, Air Quality Consultants has grown into a company employing 14 professionally qualified consultants. Duncan Laxen was joined in 2005 by his co-Director, Stephen Moorcroft, who brought additional experience of running a major UK consultancy group. The two met in the early 1980s, when they both joined the air quality section of the Greater London Council, carrying out pioneering work on monitoring and assessing air quality in London.

The company, which has offices in Bristol and London, now tackles a wide range of projects for clients ranging from small developers to major international companies. Air Quality Consultants expertise is constantly in demand not only from the private sector, but also from government departments in the UK and Ireland, as well as from government departments as far away as Australia and South Africa. The Company also works closely with many local authorities throughout the UK, helping them assess and improve air quality.

Air Quality Consultants has been closely involved with the development of air quality policy and legislation over the last 20 years. Both Duncan Laxen and Stephen Moorcroft have consistently advised the UK government on a range of air quality matters, in particular in relation to local air quality management.

The Company brings its experience and expertise into play across a wide range of projects, from road schemes to airports, and from industry to mixed-use developments. For instance, the company has helped assess air quality at over 20 airports. Indeed, Duncan Laxen was involved as an expert witness in the Public Inquiry into the 5th Terminal at Heathrow Airport – an Inquiry that ran for a record 525 days.

Commenting on the Company’s success, founder and co-Director, Professor Duncan Laxen said, “I feel immensely proud to have helped develop air quality management in the UK and elsewhere in the world, and am delighted to be celebrating twenty years of growing what is now one of the largest air quality consultancy groups in the UK.”

An interactive Timeline has been produced which maps key developments in air quality legislation over the past twenty years, and identifies key milestones in the Company’s history (click here to view)

Effectiveness of Local Authority Action Plans and Future for LAQM


A review of the effectiveness of local authority Air Quality Action Plans and future policy options for Local Air Quality Management (LAQM) has been carried out for Defra by Air Quality Consultants, in conjunction with Aether.  A number of local authorities were surveyed by questionnaire and follow-up telephone interviews to inform a detailed review of the successes and failures of the current system.   The report identified barriers to Action Plans in delivering the required improvements to air quality conditions, concluding that there is often a lack of political will and funding.  There is little evidence that robust quantification of measures in the Action Plan has been carried out, and accordingly, it is difficult to assess how successful the measures have been.  However, there is evidence that the Action Planning process has played an important role in providing the evidence base to support local measures that have delivered improvements, and local authority officers are better informed to provide advice on development control decisions, which should in the long run contribute to improved air quality. 

The need for improved guidance for local authorities on preparing Action Plans was also identified.  This would benefit from the lessons learned from successful Action Plans so as to avoid the need for authorities to ‘re-invent the wheel’ when developing or revising their Action Plans.

The report concluded by setting out options for the future of the LAQM process, with opportunities to ease the reporting burden for local authorities.  Defra and the Scottish Government are undertaking a consultation on different options for the future of LAQM, taking into account the recommendations in the Air Quality Consultants report.  

This report may be downloaded here.

Details of the consultation for England may be found here

Details of the consultation for Scotland may be found here

Case Studies of Local Authority Action Plan Measures Published


Air Quality Consultants Ltd, in conjunction with SLH Environmental, was commissioned by Defra to review Air Quality Action Plan measures investigated by local authorities using funding from Defra's Air Quality Grant Scheme.  The objective of the review is to disseminate useful information on the outcomes of the local authority projects, to inform practice on a wider scale.

The report examined ten case studies including Low Emission Zone (LEZ)/ Low Emission Strategies, Greener Transport (i.e. non-LEZ), and communications projects.  A key message arising from the review is that good communications between all relevant stakeholders is critical.  There continues to be a significant challenge in quantifying the air quality benefits of action plan measures.  There are examples of Grant-funded work identifying new approaches or techniques, which can then be rolled out for implementation within other local authorities. 

The report may be downloaded here

Growth Leads to New Recruitment


Due to an expanding work load and staff promotions, Air Quality Consultants Ltd is recruiting an Assistant Consultant or Consultant to join the large team of consultants based in its Bristol office.  Candidates will ideally have an MSc or higher in an appropriate science-based discipline.  The role will involve providing support on the full range of air quality related projects.  The position will be based in Bristol.

Please click here for more information on the position.

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