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Local Air Quality Management - Frequently Asked Questions

What is the air pollution like in Rochford District?

Generally, the air quality within the district is good. However, monitoring has identified that the average annual level of a pollutant, Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) within Rayleigh town centre is marginally higher than the Government’s National Objective. It is fair to point out that the levels of NO2 in Rayleigh only just fail the air quality objective and are at levels considerably below those found in larger built up areas such as Central London.

How is air quality monitored?

We currently have 10 NO2 diffusion tubes across 8 locations throughout the district, which are changed monthly, with the exposed tubes sent off for analysis. Annual Status Reports are then produced for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) each Summer using monitoring data. If computer modelling is used to extrapolate results, these will also be included.

Where does nitrogen dioxide come from?

The burning of coal, natural gases and fuel produces oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions, mainly in the form of Nitrogen Oxide (NO). Chemical reactions then occur in the atmosphere with the NO, which produce nitrogen dioxide. The main source of NOx emissions is road vehicles. Older and larger cars will produce higher levels of NOx.

What is an Air Quality Management Area?

An Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) is declared for an area where the local air quality has not met – or is unlikely to meet - the Government’s national objectives where there are relevant receptors. Once an AQMA has been declared, further work is undertaken to monitor air quality in this area, and also identify what actions can be implemented to improve the air quality. We declared the AQMA in Rayleigh in February 2015 following a public consultation. This is a copy of the order.

What/where are ‘relevant receptors’?

For NO2, relevant receptors are residential households (excluding front gardens), schools and hospitals. Shops, offices and pavements are excluded.

What are the national air quality objectives?

The National Air Quality Strategy sets air quality objectives for England and Wales. These air quality objectives have been set with health effects in mind. The aim is to ensure that everyone is able to enjoy acceptable levels of air quality that meet these objectives, posing no significant risk to human health or quality of life. The main concerns within the district relate to the nitrogen dioxide annual air quality objective of 40μg/m3 (micrograms per metre cubed).

Have other local authorities declared AQMAs?

Yes, over 300 local authorities have active AQMAs within their boroughs, including many in Essex such as Brentwood, Uttlesford, Epping Forest, Southend, Thurrock, Chelmsford and Colchester. Some LAs have more than one AQMA within their borough, whilst others have declared their whole area. Further information on where AQMAs have been declared is on the Defra website.

What steps are the council taking to resolve the matter?

Once an AQMA has been declared, an Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) has to be produced by us and approved by Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Between 28 November 2016 and 3 January 2017 we are seeking the views of residents, businesses and other stakeholders regarding our draft AQAP, which has been produced in partnership with Essex County Council. The AQAP proposes viable steps which can be implemented to try and reduce the average NO2 within the AQMA below the national objective.

What can be included in an AQAP?

Any actions which would result in an improvement in the air quality in an AQMA. The actions do not necessarily have to occur in the AQMA and can either be policy-based or practical in nature. Actions could be carried out by a local authority, business, voluntary group or resident(s).

What are the health effects associated with high NO2 levels?

It must be stressed that levels of Nitrogen Dioxide are only marginally above the National Objective in Rayleigh town centre. However, in general, nitrogen dioxide can have both long and short-term health effects. Short-term effects include irritation of the eyes and throat and can lead to the increase of symptoms of respiratory conditions such as asthma and bronchitis. The long-term health effects will increase the susceptibility to respiratory conditions among healthy individuals, and lead to gradual deterioration in health of people already suffering from respiratory problems, particularly in elderly people.

Do I have to declare an AQMA against my property on the land registry?

No, there is no legal requirement for the AQMA to be placed on the land registry against properties located within the AQMA. However, the Council has to make the information available to the public and it is placed on a national website by Defra. We publish all our local air quality information locally on the Essex Air website and our AQMA page.

Does the AQMA stay in place forever?

No, the Council will continue to monitor the levels of NO2, and should the annual average level fall below the national objective, the AQMA can be removed.

Where can I find copies of Rochford District Council’s air quality reports and the AQMA documents?

All the annual air quality data and reports relating to Rochford District Council are available at the Essex Air website. The current Air Quality Action Plan consultation is available our AQMA page.

Why don’t you monitor near me?

Over the years, we have monitored in areas of the district where we felt there was potential for levels of NO2 to be above a national objective. There have been a number of other sites where equipment has been in place, but was subsequently removed as levels were not found to be high enough to warrant further monitoring. The Annual Status Report we submit to Defra ensures we consider where pollution levels or relevant exposure may change. All historical data is available at Essex Air website.

Do you consider air quality in the planning process?

Yes – and particularly for larger sites. Air quality is a material planning consideration and larger development applications must be accompanied by an air quality assessment.

Proposals for sites in or around the AQMA in Rayleigh also have air quality assessments. Our officers consider these assessments and make recommendations accordingly. We also have a policy to restrict new residential development in any AQMA.