Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs
Today I am publishing the responses received to our consultation on local air quality and noise management, together with a Welsh Government summary which contains our response to the consultation exercise.
There were two objectives for the consultation. First, we sought views on 15 specific proposals. These focused primarily on refreshing, through new statutory guidance, the local air quality management (LAQM) regime established by the Environment Act 1995. This long-standing, UK-wide system requires Local Authorities to monitor air quality, identify areas non-compliant with the national air quality objectives and implement local air quality action plans leading to compliance with those objectives. While LAQM has been successful in identifying a large number of pollution hotspots, it has had limited success in eradicating them and we need to break down the barriers to effective action in this area. The proposals in our consultation stressed the importance of policy integration and collaboration and the immediate and long-term health benefits to be gained by reducing pollution exposure across the entire population at the same time as taking action on localised pollution hotspots.
The majority of the 50 responses received were broadly supportive of our proposed direction of travel in terms of air quality policy and I intend to take forward the majority of our proposals as drafted, providing further clarification in the form of revised policy guidance where necessary. The principal changes to the measures set out in the consultation document relate to the deadline for Local Authorities submitting annual progress reports and the timescale envisaged for producing the new annual progress report template.
The second element of the consultation exercise asked what else should be done to tackle airborne pollution. We have grouped the responses to this part into two broad categories, those relating to planning policy and guidance and those relating to other matters.
The responses received on the subject of planning policy and guidance will be taken into account in the upcoming revision of Planning Policy Wales and the production of Wales’ first National Development Framework. These responses included a call for an update of TAN11: Noise and the production of national guidance on planning in relation to air quality. Guidance can play an important role in preventing unacceptable levels of air and noise pollution from arising as a consequence of development and I will give further consideration to this matter in due course.
A wide range of additional comments were received relating neither to the 15 specific proposals in the consultation document nor to planning matters. These will be very helpful in informing our air quality and noise priorities in the remainder of this Assembly term. In the Welsh Government summary of the consultation exercise we have responded to a number of the suggestions received under this heading. Others will require more time to consider in full.
Alongside these responses, we will consider responses to an upcoming joint consultation with the other UK administrations on a new air quality plan to achieve the EU nitrogen dioxide limit values for Wales and the rest of the UK within the shortest possible time. This consultation is due to begin by 24 April.