Air Quality Assessment for Planning
In recent times, the local authorities have instilled an emphasis on developing in a way that protects and enhances the condition of the environment. Green infrastructure has allowed architects, developers and planners to integrate sustainable elements into projects, such as renewable energy in the form of biomass boilers, CHP plant technology, solar panels and wind turbines, and the launch of biodiversity net gain (BNG) has enabled local councils to quantify and regulate the enhancement of the natural world.
Poor air quality is a particularly important consideration, as it can cause an array of issues to humans and the environment, and on a wider scale, it plays a negative role in climate change. As a result, any time a new development poses potential impacts to air quality or the proposed location is where air quality is distinctly poor, an air quality assessment will be an unavoidable condition that will stand between a successful or unsuccessful planning application.
Importance of Air Quality
Every single day, the average adult breathes an estimated 15,000 litres of air, and if local air quality is poor, the air moving through the lungs, into the bloodstream and across to internal organs could be carrying harmful air pollutants.
It is possible for poor air quality to endanger a healthy adult, but for vulnerable people such as children, the elderly or anyone suffering from a chronic disease, the risks are even greater. Although it is understandable that the likelihood of short-term and long-term health implications will rank as the primary concern, substandard air quality impacts more than just human health.
Below par air quality harms the environment by making the nearby areas toxic for wildlife, worsening climate change, and depleting the ozone layer. Overlap between effects on health and the environment also spread to the economy, as it can increase health expenditure, decrease labour productivity, and compromise crop yields.
Causes of Air Pollution
Whenever harmful chemicals and gases are used, they are released into the air but remain suspended in the ozone. From this point, the gas, liquid and solid particles can stay stuck in the atmosphere for anywhere between a few years to several thousands of years. Anyone in the vicinity can then suffer the potentially negative effects of air pollution exposure, continuing until it eventually evaporates.
A selection of materials can contribute to air pollution, such as dust, pollen, spores, volcanoes, wildfires, the smoke from factories, and the exhausts from cars and other road vehicles. Certain gasses and chemicals fit within the bracket of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), and while they may not be as long-lasting and powerful as more substantial air pollutants, they too play a role in climate change.
Impact of Air Pollution
According to statistics from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), air pollution causes somewhere between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths in the UK every year. From 2017 to 2025, an estimated £1.6 billion pounds will be spent by the NHS and the social care system on remedying conditions and issues that emerged as a result of pollutants in the air.
A number of receptors can suffer the effects of air pollution, including both humans and wildlife in the local area. It can also bring about or worsen a wide range of health problems, with the UK government even going as far as claiming that it is the ‘largest environmental risk to public health’.
Common conditions that could be triggered by long-term exposure to air pollution include lung cancer and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as producing short-term symptoms such as worsening asthma and hampering lung function.
Air Quality Laws and Regulations
Due to the impact poor air quality can have on human health, the natural environment and the economy as a whole, several pieces of legislation were produced by the EU. Despite the UK’s departure from the UK as a result of Brexit, laws regulating air quality impact remained in place through the effect of the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018.
The Gothenburg Protocol was introduced internationally to limit the levels of pollutants, implemented in countries within the EU via multiple directives such as the National Emission Ceilings Directive 2001, 2016 and 2018. The EU also has a dedicated piece of legislation titled the Directive 2008/50/EC (the Air Quality Directive) to monitor parameters for the concentrations of pollutants.
In the UK, the Air Quality Directive is represented in the form of the Air Quality Standards Regulations 2010. In addition, the World Health Organisation (WHO) offers advice on common pollutants in the Global Air Quality Guidelines. Local councils across the UK also possess strategies for dealing with climate change accordingly, including moves to reverse and reduce air pollution. Not only does this include the Clean Air Strategy 2019 that applies to the entirety of the UK, but also local plans for individual locations.
What is an Air Quality Assessment?
Also known as air quality impact assessments, air quality neutral assessments, air quality risk assessments, air quality monitoring and air quality testing, air quality assessments are a type of survey for planning that focus solely on pollution levels in the local atmosphere of a proposed development site. The insight from an air quality assessment can then uncover further information about contaminants, humidity, temperature control and ventilation.
A detailed air quality assessment will not only determine the local air quality but also the connection between the point sources of the pollutant emissions and the receptors that could suffer harm from them. An air quality consultant can then gauge the level of harm that poor air quality could be having on the receptors and begin to produce mitigation measures that will eliminate or reduce any potential impacts.
When is an Air Quality Assessment Required?
In simple terms, an air quality assessment will be needed in any proposed development that could damage the condition of the atmosphere or any location where the condition of the atmosphere could cause damage to individuals or buildings during the construction phase or after the proposed development has been completed.
More specifically, planning projects that would require an air quality survey include:
- All major developments
- Developments that are expected to directly or indirectly affect air quality
- Developments that are staged in sensitive locations such as air quality management areas (AQMAs)
- Developments that consist of demolition or substantial earthworks
- Developments that take place near local roads
- Developments that will change traffic composition long-term such as the creation of a bus station
- Developments that will increase traffic volumes and potentially cause traffic congestion through the utilisation of numerous vehicles to and from the site
- Developments that involve biomass boilers or gas combined heat and power (CHP) boilers
Air Quality Assessments for Planning Applications
Planning departments within local councils will often list conditions that will need to be met before planning applications will be granted. A proposed development could require any number of surveys, such as multiple arboricultural surveys and ecology surveys before the planning officer will even consider the application for planning permission.
It is equally as applicable that the local planning authority will insist on seeing the report from air quality assessments and that without it, planning consent will be refused. With this in mind, developers should consider which surveys will be needed in order for them to achieve a planning condition and progress their development project into future stages, including the possibility of an air quality assessment.
Air Quality Services
Surveys for air quality impact can be held for both internal and external areas. Each type of air quality assessment follows a similar process, with key distinctions that allow them to cater to a variety of different purposes and uses.
Indoor and outdoor air quality assessments we provide include:
Indoor Air Quality Assessment / Indoor Air Quality Monitoring
Common for hotel, leisure, office, retail or student accommodation developments that are aiming for BREEAM accreditation, air pollutants affecting indoor air quality for occupants of the building are minimised or eliminated under the BREEAM 2018 New Construction guidance.
More information on indoor air quality assessments
Air Quality Monitoring
Over a minimum period of three months, a selection of ambient air pollutants is monitored based on guidance from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
More information on air quality monitoring
Detailed Air Quality Assessment / Air Quality Screening Assessment
Through air dispersion modelling software, a quantitative and qualitative assessment analyses construction phase dust and road traffic emissions, focusing on the effect of local air quality from development-generated traffic, often for larger schemes and areas with poor air quality such as Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs).
Detailed Site Suitability Assessment
Using air dispersion modelling software, predicted pollutant concentrations from road traffic emissions are measured against relevant air quality objectives within a quantitative assessment to determine any need for mitigation.
More information on site suitability assessments
Dust Risk Assessment / Dust Management Plan
Either as a standalone assessment or as part of a Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP), an inspection gauges the risk of construction dust and initiates mitigation measures to reduce the level of risk as much as possible.
More information on dust risk assessments
Air Quality Environmental Statement Chapters / Air Quality Statement
Identical to a detailed air assessment, except instead of an air quality report, it results in an environmental statement chapter, as well as providing input to scoping practices.
Depending on the source of the odour, a sniff test or odour dispersion modelling is used, establishing the baseline odour environment and assisting in an odour risk assessment designed to confirm whether mitigation is required.
More information on odour assessments
Preliminary Air Quality Constraints Assessment
Utilising freely available data, a high-level review of local air pollution sources is used to identify key constraints to development and outline the master plan design from early into the planning process.
Air Quality Assessment Methodology
For more information on what is involved in air quality assessments, the section below details what tools are used, how the air quality survey process plays out, and why the report is an important component in achieving planning acceptance.
Air Quality Assessment Tools
Rather than the practical tools that would typically be used in an arboricultural survey, ecology survey or archaeology survey, the equipment utilised for air quality assessments are primarily specialist techniques and digital programmes that are designed to allow for approaches that measure pollutant levels and concentrations.
Common approaches and equipment in air quality assessments include:
- Dispersion modelling / atmospheric dispersion modelling software (ADMS-Roads)
- Emissions inventories
- Land use regression
- Mobile monitoring
- Source apportionment
Air Quality Survey
An air quality consultant will begin the survey process by attending the development site to review the air quality in the nearby vicinity by recording air quality monitoring and modelling data. It will then lead to an analysis of the air quality impact during the construction phase where the air quality surveyor should consider mitigation methods that address controlling dust and pollution emissions.
Receptors that are expected to be subjected to poor air quality will be outlined on a map, with the level of air pollution quantified using the Air Quality Impact Significance Criteria – New Exposure from the National Society for Clean Air and Environmental Protection (NSCA). As previously mentioned, if the development and site call for further information, the air quality consultant can choose to record air quality dispersion modelling data.
Air Quality Assessment Report
Whether the air quality assessment is simple or complex, it will result in the air quality surveyor putting together a report. Within the report will include an explanation of the findings from the development site and the reasoning behind mitigation measures created by the air quality surveyor to eliminate or minimise exposure to poor air quality and reduce air pollution.
Details from the planning project and development site will dictate the mitigation strategy, such as the design, location and specifications of the project. It is vital that an air quality report demonstrates that the development proposal has been designed with acknowledgement of potential dangers to and from local air quality at the earliest stages.
After the air quality assessment is complete and the report has been finalised, it can then be passed across to the local planning authority, as would any survey report created to support the planning application process. As it will feature all of the elements required by the planning officer, it should be sufficient to satisfy the local council and secure planning consent.
Air Quality Consultants Near Me
Our simple and detailed air quality assessments are conducted by professional air quality consultants, each with the necessary standard of qualifications, licensing and training to provide a suitably high-quality service. Arbtech has a strict policy for vetting all surveyors, meaning that any time you book in a survey with us, you will receive the same level of attention to detail.
Unlike the majority of consultancies across the UK, we ensure coverage to all areas. That means that whether you are in the North West, North East, West Midlands, East Midlands, South West, South East, East of England or London, we can facilitate air quality assessments for your proposed development to analyse local air quality and the level of pollutant emissions before producing mitigation measures to assist with planning applications.
Air Quality Assessment Cost
All of our surveys to support planning applications are priced up in the same way, starting at a baseline cost but rising higher based on the specific dimensions of the development site. By approaching survey quotes in this way, a developer staging a planning project on a small development site will not be forced to pay the same as a developer staging a planning project on a large development site.
The same is true of air quality assessments, allowing us to only charge clients what we need to, as opposed to unfairly adding on unnecessary fees without reason. Instead, we would recommend speaking to our team and providing us with your details. Using unique information about your development plans, we can then assemble a reflective quote for you to consider.
Contact Us for an Air Quality Survey Quote
Any time a developer is told by the local planning authority that they need a detailed air quality assessment or feels that one may be necessary based on their proposed development, we advise contacting us so we can talk you through your options. Once we have information about your site and project, we will send you a free quote for you to look over, and if you are happy to move forward, send it back to us to confirm.
Confirmation of your intention to work with us will then be followed by the decision of when we can fit you in for an air quality assessment. On the chosen date, an air quality consultant will arrive at the site of your proposed development, note likely point sources, analyse air pollutants, and determine the air quality impacts. Information retrieved from the development site will then enable the air quality consultant to initiate mitigation measures, reduce air pollution exposure, and display all data within a report to bolster planning applications.