Why is Cross Street no longer considered an AQMA by DEFRA
In July 2017 Defra delivered a document called Air Quality Plan Detail.
Annex K outlines all the Air Quality Management Areas required to be solved in UK alongside responsible Local Authorities.
Only Cross Street is missing.
We have asked DEFRA why but so far no response.
I raised a Freedom of Information Request with Defra to ask
Dear Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,
In 2017 and in 2018 you published the following documents: Air Quality Management Plan from the list of Local Authorities requiring action to reduce NOx levels in the designated Air Quality Management Areas in both:
UK plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations Detailed plan Annex K – Local authorities with one or more roads with NO2 concentrations forecast above statutory limits based on modelling in 2017
Supplement to the UK plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dated October 2018
Both documents omitted the following AQMA and requirement for action by Babergh District Council. The details of the AQMA according to your own records is:
BABERGH DISTRICT COUNCIL,Sudbury AQMA,Current,21-Nov-08,"An area encompassing part of Cross Street, Sudbury.",Annual
An Air Quality Management Plan has been agreed for this Air Quality Management Area but no action has been undertaken relating to it. There are no other factors that will resolve or mitigate this AQMA by 2021 or 2022.
I therefore request any documents concerning why this AQMA and corresponding action by Babergh District Council was omitted from either document and what the status of this AQMA is as far as your department is concerned and what requirements for action are required of Babergh District Council.
I got the response you can see below. It states that the Cross Street AQMA is still a valid AQMA but is not covered by the National Response outlined in the Draft Clean Air Strategy.
The Plans cover non-compliant road links and as you mentioned, information did not include Babergh District council. Modelling results did not identify Babergh as having road links with NO2 exceedance. There are no documents explaining why this AQMA and corresponding action by the council were omitted. We are therefore writing to advise you that the information that you have requested is not available.
At the third attempt and with the outstanding help of the Green Party's Robert Lindsay and Caroline Russell the same question was put to Client Earth. Their response is explains why the AQMA is not in the National List and is a much easier read.
The problem reflects the fact that in the UK there are two systems in operation, the EU Ambient Air Quality Directive that places a duty on the UK government to meet legal limits in the shortest time possible and the Local Air Quality Management system that places a requirement on local authorities to monitor and assess air quality and that leads to the creation of AQMAs where national objectives aren’t met. Even though the legal limits and national objectives have similar numerical values they have different ways of being assessed and enforced. Our legal challenges have been over the EU legal limits as they are more enforceable than the national objectives.
The UK Government uses a model, the Pollution Climate Mapping (PCM) model, to assess whether it is complying with legal limits. Unfortunately while it has some advantages over just reporting monitored data (because you can’t have a monitor on every road) it also has a got a few flaws. In your case, Robert, the main problem is that it doesn’t include any roads in your area as you can see in this map (set the data type to “roadside”). So while your local authority’s own monitoring might be showing there’s a problem this won’t be picked up by the national model. As the UK Government’s plans are based on the national modelling they will not cover areas and roads not covered by this.
We were able to highlight some of the concerns in our legal challenges but unfortunately were not able to pursue this particular flaw as it is a method that has been approved by the European Commission. Issues with the national model have been brought up by a number of local authorities who have been mandated to take action where they feel it is either under or over representing the extent of the problem. The government have said that they will be consulting on how to bring together the two systems but this hasn’t happened yet. It is something that we would be pursuing in our calls for new clean air legislation.
Hope that makes sense.