Section 82 of the Environment Act 1995 requires every Local Authority to review the present and likely future air quality within its area. Section 83 requires Local Authorities to designate an air quality management area (AQMA) when a national air quality objective is not being achieved, or is not likely to be achieved. Section 84 then requires a Local Authority to develop an action plan for the AQMA.
The Welsh Government amended the local air quality management (LAQM) regime in Wales in 2017 by issuing new statutory policy guidance in order to bring the system into line with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 ("the WFG Act"). Key points from the new guidance are as follows:
- The Welsh Government expects Local Authorities in Wales to follow the five ways of working set out in the WFG Act when carrying out LAQM.
- Our long-term goal for air quality should be twofold, to achieve compliance with the national air quality objectives in specific hotspots and to reduce exposure to pollution more widely, so as to achieve the greatest public health benefit.
- The purpose of LAQM is to improve human health and quality of life. This improvement to health and quality of life will be greater if improved soundscapes are achieved alongside reductions in air pollution.
- The Welsh Government is prioritising the delivery of nature-based solutions to improve our social, ecological and economic resilience. Such solutions should be given due consideration in the development of any plan or strategy to address air and/or noise pollution at a local or regional level.
- Local Authorities’ climate change and air quality plans and policies should be closely aligned and integrated where appropriate to maximise any potential synergies and avoid any potential conflicts.
- Alongside integrating air quality with other environmental policies, interdepartmental policy integration is absolutely essential, particularly in relation to land use and transport planning.
- Local Authority air quality officers should work with health and public health professionals to integrate LAQM effectively with other local initiatives aiming to reduce health risks and inequalities in affected communities.
- Local Authorities or regional groupings of Local Authorities should produce a draft annual air quality progress report every year by the end of September, written for the general public and following a template issued by the Welsh Government, and publish the finalised report before the year ends.
- Local communities should be involved from the outset in the development of a local air quality action plan. Local Authorities should not wait until the plan exists in draft form before seeking their input. Within 18 months of declaring or extending an AQMA, a draft action plan informed by local community engagement should be submitted for inspection by the Welsh Government.
- In working towards the well-being of future generations, Local Authorities should give special consideration to the long-term risks posed to babies and children by exposure to air pollution, whether in their homes, in their school or nursery, or travelling between the two.
- Any new or updated local air quality action plan from 2017 onwards should state how actions are being taken forward not solely with a view to achieving technical compliance with the national air quality objectives, but also with a view to maximising their contribution to reducing overall levels of nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and environmental noise pollution for the population as a whole, so as to achieve the greatest public health benefit.