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Pollution: Air Quality

Volume 694: debated on Wednesday 18 July 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What measures they have undertaken in recent years to enforce United Kingdom ambient air-quality limit values so as to ensure compliance with the parameters in European Union Directives 96/62/EC, 99/30, 00/69, 02/3 and 04/107. [HL4792]

We expect the limit values to be met in the majority of locations within the allotted timescale through existing national measures already in place or planned to come into effect. We are currently updating our national air-quality strategy, which considers additional policy measures that may be needed to help us achieve national and European air-quality standards. The new strategy will be published this summer.

In the UK, compliance problems are not widespread—they generally apply at highly localised hotspots (such as street corners, which are greatly influenced by traffic). In 2006, most people (around 99.9 per cent of the population) were already breathing air that complied with the limit values. In those areas where improvements in air-quality can be made, local authorities are required to designate air-quality management areas under Section 83 of the Environment Act 1995 where air-quality objectives are not being, or are unlikely to be, met. Around 200 local authorities have designated air-quality management areas to date.

Council Directive 96/62/EC on ambient air-quality assessment and management places a statutory obligation on the Government to produce a plan which explains action that we will take to bring areas of exceedence back into compliance. A copy of the latest plan is available on the Defra website.