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Air Quality Assessments in London: Survey for Pollutants

If you expect your London development to cause poor air quality or the local air quality to have a negative effect on your site, you will need to organise an air quality assessment, or it could lead to issues in securing successful planning applications.

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Standard of the Environment Across London

Continuously ranked at the top of the list of UK urban areas with the highest populations, London caters to just short of 11 million residents. While a surprisingly high 47% of Greater London is considered green, it also has the highest percentage of land in developed use anywhere in England, standing at 39.6% compared to the lowest figure of 6.7% in South West England. It is inevitable that a location as urban as London will only see more development in the future, but when it comes at the expense of the environment and biodiversity, the local authorities are required to intervene.

Multiple areas are listed as having a detrimental effect on the environment, such as a lack of trees, a shortage of green areas, overpopulation, and the use of fossil fuels. Air pollution is another component, and in 2023 alone, it was the cause of an estimated 6,100 deaths in London and, as a side effect, cost the city over seven billion pounds. Although London appears at position 29 for the cleanest major cities in the world, it also ranks at position 86 for the most polluted, and out of all cities in the UK, Hackney and Croydon – both in Greater London – are given the worst air quality index (AQI) rating.

Overlap Between Air Quality and Development

Even with the introduction of various environmentally friendly initiatives such as organising tree planting drives, using combined heat and power and biomass boilers, and encouraging green infrastructure, London remains a mostly developed area with the potential for more property and land development opportunities in the future. During the early stages of any planning project, the developer will need to map out whether any assessments are needed to eliminate potential issues, avoid unnecessary delays, and support future applications for planning permission later in the process.

Various surveys to support planning are available, and the possibility of poor air quality infringing on a proposed development should be treated as an important consideration at the earliest stages of the project. Pollutant emissions can come from the construction phase of the development itself and interfere with local air quality, and pre-existing pollution emissions in the local area can cause problems to the air quality of the development site. Either way, air pollution exposure has the ability to threaten human health and hinder the planning process.

Whenever air pollutants in the surrounding area are likely to cause air quality impacts to a proposed development or the process of completing a planning project could produce new exposure to air pollutants, adequate air quality management is vital. A number of air quality assessment services are available to meet a variety of different needs, but by simply speaking to the team at Arbtech, we can point you in the direction of the most suitable air quality assessments to find pragmatic solutions, appease the local council, meet the national air quality objectives, and obtain planning applications.

Types of Air Quality Assessment for Planning

As poor air quality can appear both internally and externally and from an array of sources, a developer can choose from a selection of air quality assessments. Otherwise known as air quality impact assessments, air quality neutral assessments or air quality positive assessments, detailed air quality assessments are common and involve conducting a quantitative and qualitative analysis. A detailed air quality assessment will often apply to large development schemes or projects in air quality management areas (AQMAs). The inspection is used to review the predicted changes to air quality caused by the development using dispersion modelling software (ADMS-Roads).

Likewise, an air quality statement will be undertaken in the same way, except with a resulting environmental statement chapter instead of an air quality report. Alternatively, an indoor air quality assessment will be conducted to evaluate the presence of harmful pollutants inside buildings and other sealed structures. If the atmosphere in and around a development site is expected to vary throughout the planning schedule, air quality monitoring would be more suitable. Under the guidelines of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the site will be tracked for the presence of multiple potential pollutants over a minimum period of three months.

As well as in detailed air quality assessments, air dispersion modelling software is also used for site suitability assessments to gather data on predicted road traffic emissions. Surveys for odour, dust and pollution emissions are also available, with odour assessments created to identify and eliminate unwanted smells and dust risk assessments designed to examine the impact of construction dust. In terms of less invasive surveys, a preliminary air quality constraints assessment may be used to highlight barriers caused by poor air quality using existing data on record.

Any time one of the surveys above has been completed, the air quality consultants that handled the inspection process will compile all further information, mitigation measures and management plans within an air quality report. It will explain what steps need to be taken to reduce air pollution or achieve other goals that stand between the developer and planning consent. An air quality assessment report can then be passed on to the local planning officer as supporting evidence in planning applications.

Book an Inspection with Arbtech

If you need to measure indoor air quality, initiate air quality monitoring for a number of months, evaluate dust or odour, or determine the air quality impact on or from a development, a form of air quality assessment will be the necessary next step. An air quality consultant can then visit the site on a chosen date, form an understanding of the situation, provide adequate compensation and mitigation measures, and ensure that all of the preparations are in place to meet the requirements of the local planning authority and come away with a successful planning application.

Following years of service throughout the country, the team at Arbtech has come across every possible problem that would otherwise halt a proposed development. Our span of knowledge allows us to cater to numerous types of survey to support development, including air quality assessments to deal with issues regarding air pollution. For help with poor air quality on your development site and securing planning applications, visit our contact page, call us or fill out a quote form, and once we have received further information from you, we will send you a free quote. We can then work with you to find a date for an air quality assessment and begin the process of moving your planning project to the next stage.

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